The GreekAmerican - July 7, 2000 Vol 15, No. 27

Lawsuit Filed Against Greek Archbishop

Executive Committee stands firm on resolutions

NEW YORK-.  The 35th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress officially opened on Monday with Archbishop Demetrios' keynote address focusing on timeless traditions of faith as worship, love, and truth at the threshold of a new millennium. That same day, Harry J. Pappas, a member of the executive committee, filed a seven-count New York Supreme Court complaint against Demetrios for non-compliance of the Archdiocesan Council's executive committee's duly adopted resolution of June 15, 1999. The resolution called for "full benefits" for former Archbishop Spyridon under a Bishops Supplemental Retirement Plan and Clergy Pension Program.

"I feel saddened and I have shed silent tears over this," Pappas told The GreekAmerican, referring to the lawsuit. "There have only been two other occasions in the context of my professional undertaking where there was a similar level of irresponsibility on the part of human beings."

Pappas says this is an issue of fairness, equity, common sense and goodness. He and other members of the executive committee insist that the "operation of our Church be run according to the charter and the regulations." In his complaint he charges that the Demetrios effectively discharged the Trustees of the archdiocese of their fiduciary responsibilities "under the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law of the State of New York..."

The lawsuit requests, but is not limited to, the commencement of "monthly payment of the benefits of $112,000 per annum" to Spyridon. The question is how will the archdiocese respond to the lawsuit. As of Thursday afternoon, there was no official statement released from the archdiocese relating to this issue, according to Presvytera Nikki Stephanopoulos, the archdiocese's press and information officer.

The lawsuit was preceded by a five-page letter from Pappas (dated June 23) addressed to Demetrios and members of the Holy Synod providing an overview of the issue at hand, which also served as an incentive to effectuate a resolution.

"Unless the duly authorized Resolutions... are fully implemented and all past due payments made by wire transfer of immediately available funds to the account of His Eminence Spyridon by 3 PM EST on June 27, 2000, I shall have no other option but to file suit to compel the lawful action of the Archdiocese to implement the Resolutions and to prevent certain parties from frustrating and otherwise unlawfully interfering with the lawful, fiduciary acts of its Trustees, their duly adopted and binding Resolutions of June, 1999, August, 1999 and June 2000," wrote Pappas.

Five days later (on June 28) Pappas sent a three-page letter to the Patriarch indicating that the Patriarchal Fund (containing approximately $200,000) "is woefully insufficient to fund an $80,000 per annum benefit." In his letter, tagged with a June 29 (36-hour period deadline), Pappas requested, among others, an "irrevocable permission" be granted in the form of a Patriarchal Letter as an "official act" that would "confirm, ratify, endorse, accept and attorn" to the executive committee's adopted resolutions.

For more than six months, the ensuing debate between executive committee members "acting as the Board of Trustees of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America" and Demetrios has not been resolved. In that time, committee members have endeavored adamantly to implement the resolution.

"I have filed this action as an exercise of my fiduciary responsibility to the archdiocese. Each member of the executive committee is derived from the Archdiocesan Council and takes an oath to conduct oneself according the charter [of the archdiocese]," Pappas said.

The long awaited action to move ahead on the issue of Spyridon's issue came in the form of a counteroffer in a letter addressed to Demetrios (dated June 22) by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The Patriarchal letter calls for an "allowance" of $80,000 per annum, retroactive from April 2000 where monies would be drawn from a Patriarchal Fund held at the archdiocese.

On June 26, executive committee vice chairman, John Catsimatidis, met with Demetrios to go over the details of Spyridon's pension.

"Are you giving this allowance as charity?" writes Michael G. Cantonis, member of the executive committee, in a letter (dated June 30) to Demetrios.

"An allowance is not a pension. A father gives allowances to his children, and if for any reason he does not like something that his children do, he can threaten his children to behave according to his wishes, or cut off their allowances... If this offer is honest and will last his lifetime without conditions, why not give him his pension, especially when the executive committee has made provisions for funding it without any cost to the archdiocese?"

In 1997, Cantonis, a major contributor to the archdiocese, donated $170,000 with interest for the establishment of a Patriarchal Fund (in conformance with tax-exempt rules) with the condition that if a fund was not established by 1998,the monies would be used for other archdiocesan means. That amount has reached nearly $940,000 and has yet to be transferred to a Bishop's Supplemental Retirement Plan.

"Our Church and our clergy have a difficult time accepting oversight and the idea of open financial records to the laity," said Pappas. "I would like to see a warm, united effort for enhancing the efforts of the archdiocese."

[ Orthodox Truth |  -  July 7, 2000 ]