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9.14.07

SPECIAL COMMISSION IN CRISIS

Job Informs Metropolitan of Intent to Reconvene • Commission to Include Nescott
• In Reply,  +Herman Reasserts Suspension Of Both

In a faxed letter to Metropolitan Herman, dated September 10th, Archbishop Job of Chicago, Chairman of the Special Commission, informed the Metropolitan of his intention to restart the work of the Special Commission on Wednesday, September 12th, with a teleconference of its members. The Archbishop wrote:

"....Based on the unanimous vote of the Metropolitan Council at its March and June meetings for there to be an unimpeded investigation by the Special Commission, and the ratification of this vote in March by the Holy Synod, the Commission will be restarting its work with a conference call this Wednesday."

The Archbishop indicated that the Special Commission will be recovened with its original members - including Attorney Gregg Nescott. The Archbishop continued:

"Further, since the Metropolitan Council gave the Special Commission a mandate to continue 'unimpeded', we wish to restart our work with its membership being that which it was at the time of the release of the preliminary report to the Metropolitan Council in March of this year."

In explaining his reasons +Job stated:

"I feel strongly that this approach will be of enormous value in terms of morale, not only for the members of the Special Commission, but for our Church membership as a whole. If Your Beatitude has any concerns, I ask that you contact me immediately..."

The Metropolitan Answers

In a fax dated September 11th, the Metropolitan replied:

"Your Eminence, I remind you that at the most recent meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops held on July 3l-August 1, 2007, the future of the Special Committee that began working under your leadership in January 2007, was a significant topic on our agenda. The minutes from that meeting includes the following statement regarding the Special Committee:

DECIDED:
The Bishops agreed that the status of the Special Committee will be on the agenda of the coming Joint Meeting with the Metropolitan Council in October.

As Metropolitan of the Church, I fully support that decision. Reconvening the Special Committee at this time would only add further complexity to an already very difficult situation."

L'Affaire Nescott

Having affirmed his suspension of the Special Commission, the Metropolitan turned to the question of the removal of Special Commission member Gregg Nescott. Nescott, an elected Metropolitan Council member from the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania was an original member of the Special Commission established in December 2006. On "Black Friday", March 24, 2007, the OCA learned that Nescott, an attorney, had been 'removed' from the Special Commission and 'suspended' from the Metropolitan Council itself by Metropolitan Herman. In a letter to members of the Council explaining his decision, the Metropolitan claimed that Nescott breached "confidentiality" by allowing an edited version of his remarks to the Metropolitan Council earlier that week to be published on OCANews.org.

(Read those remarks here)

Six weeks later, on May 26th, 2007 after having been shown in a line by line analysis of what Nescott wrote that no confidential information had been released, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh reinstated Nescott to the Metropolitan Council. (Read that analysis here) +Kyrill wrote:

"Your Beatitude:

....Following a careful and exhaustive review of the circumstances of his suspension, and after meeting at length with senior priests of my diocese and with Gregg, I have concluded that there is no basis for denying him his seat as our diocesan representative on Metropolitan Council. He was elected overwhelmingly last October by the Diocesan Assembly, and he should continue to serve in that role. Because there appears to be no reason why he shouldn't continue to serve on the Metropolitan Council representing this Diocese, I expect him to be seated at the next and future meetings of the Council..."

In view of +Kyrill's objections, amid an outcry of the entire OCA, +Herman backed down on Nescott's "suspension" from the Council. This was painfully evident at the subsequent Metropolitan Council meeting, June 2007, as reported in OCANews.org:

"+Herman did answer Alice Woog, though, when she asked why Council member Gregg Nescott was present, since he had suspended Nescott. She asked what did it say about the state of the Church if the Metropolitan's rulings could be so ignored? +Herman replied that Nescott's suspension from the Council was all 'a big misunderstanding', and that it was Archbishop Kyrill's doing to suspend Nescott, not his."

He Did, He Didn't, He Did

The Metropolitan's admission at the Council in June makes his subsequent comments to Archbishop Job in this reply, only three months later, most confusing. For once again he is asserting, falsely, that Nescott breached 'confidentiality':

"I also would like to address Your Eminence's desire to maintain the original membership of the Special Committee. Following the March 13, 2007 meeting of the Metropolitan Council, Mr, Gregory Nescott publicly disclosed confidential information related to the findings of the Special Committee. The Holy Synod discussed his actions. The following excerpt is taken from the Minutes of the Meeting of the Holy Synod held on March 20-22, 2007.

DECIDED:
The breach of confidentiality of Mr Nescott must be responded to by removing him from the Special Commission."

There is no indication in the Synodal minutes that any 'proof' or 'evidence' of any kind was offered to the Synod to justify the Metropolitan's assertion that there had been a 'breach of confidentiality'. There was only the Metropolitan's assertion. And no one on the Synod, it seems, questioned it. As a result the Metropolitan continued in his fax to +Job:

"As you know, with the concurrence of the Holy Synod, I rescinded my appointment of Mr. Nescott to the Special Commission. I expect that you and the other members of the Special Commission will abide by this decision."

That the Metropolitan tells one lie about Nescott, dismisses it as the fault of the dead archibishop when caught, and then repeats the lie three months later should not surprise anyone. Consider what he said about the Special Commission itself...

The Reason of the Season

The same day the OCA learned about Nescott's removal, the Metropolitan informed the Synod he had suspended "the work" of Special Commission as well. No reason was given at the time.

In a letter a month later, the Metropolitan explained it one way:

"At present, the Committee's work has been suspended until the hearing concerning Father Kondratick has been completed. Given that two of the members of the Committee are involved in the hearing and one member has been removed, it is not practical for it to continue at this time." (Read that story here)

A month later, at a meeting of the Metropolitan Council, the Metropolitan explained it this way:

"Metropolitan Herman agreed with the need for further investigation, but cited confidential reasons for temporarily suspending the committee's operations." (Read that story here)

Three months later the reason is now given to avoid adding "further complexity to an already very difficult situation." The most complex part of this most difficult situation appears to be the effort of keeping his lies straight.

The Method Behind the Madness

Archbishop Job's action in attempting to restart the Special Commission as the Synod and Metropolitan Council voted to do, should not be understood as rebellion against the Metropolitan. Far from it. The Midwest Diocese has made it crystal clear - by a vote of 95-5 last year in Palatine Illinois - that monies were not to be sent to Syosset if the scandal had not been cleaned up by June 2007. The Archbishop and the Diocesan Council, eager to avoid a showdown, reinterpreted that decision, extending the timeline by several months but providing benchmarks that would, if unmet, finally provoke withholding. The Archbishop gave Syosset yet another chance to avoid the consequences of its decisions....

Two of these benchmarks were the release of the Special Report, and the restarting of the Special Commission, without 'interference', understood as the restoration of Nescott and without the involvement or interference in any way of those outside the Commission - including those who have obvious conflicts of interest in the investigation, like former Treasurers Metropolitan Herman and Fr. Paul Kucynda.

Those deadlines and benchmarks were not met. In August 2007 the Archbishop began withholding. By attempting to restart the Commission, with Nescott, the Archbishop was really attempting to help Syosset regain its monies, and put a stop to its evolving financial crisis. One can only speculate that +Herman's rejection of the Archbishop's initiative is yet another attempt avoid the questions a renewed Special Commission must ask....

The Special Commission's Preliminary Report

The Metropolitan does not fear the Special Commission's Report though. One week after withholding began, Syosset let it be known that an edited preliminary Report would be released 'soon'. This intention was reaffirmed by the Metropolitan in his fax of September 11th:

"Be assured that our office is actively engaged in finalizing the Report about the deposition of Robert Kondratick. Professional legal opinion has advised us to take utmost care in preparation of the Report."

The choice of words here is revealing. The Metropolitan referred not to the "Report of the Special Commission", but the "report about the deposition of Robert Kondratick". Is any more proof needed that the Special Commission was kept on a short leash by Proskauer Rose LLP and confined to one topic? It also confirms, as does Dr. Skordinski's email of last week, (that millions, not hundreds of thousands of dollars were misappropriated), that the facts of this scandal are only now beginning to emerge. Despite Syosset's continuing efforts to channel the Commission, and failing that, repress some members, and failing that, repress its preliminary Report, and failing that, repress the Special Commission as a whole, the truth will out.

- Mark Stokoe

 
 

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