SWEEPING CHANGES ANNOUNCED
Following Tuesday’s “stunning” confirmation of misconduct, detailed by Proskauer Rose LLP, the Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America concluded their historic three-day meeting on December 13th by announcing, in a late Wednesday posting, sweeping changes to the structure, finances and personnel working in the OCA’s Central Administration. The press release, published here in full reads:
“The extraordinary joint meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America and the Metropolitan Council ended with a final session after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the feast of Saint Herman of Alaska on Wednesday, December 13, 2006.
The joint meeting was held to respond to a growing number of concerns with regard to the Church’s finances and a number of related matters.
On Tuesday, December 12, the hierarchs and Metropolitan Council members heard the long-awaited investigative report of Proskaur Rose and outside auditors. In response, a committee consisting of His Emininence, Archbishop Job of Chicago; His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of Berkeley; the Very Revs. Vladimir Berzonsky and John Reeves; Mr. Gregory Nescott and Dr. Faith Skordinski was named to continue the investigation. [For an account of decisions will made at Tuesday’s session, read the release dated December 12 on the OCA web site.]
On Monday, December 11, the members of the Metropolitan Council met separately to deliberate on a number of issues.
The far-reaching report of the Reorganization Task Force was unanimously accepted for implementation. The new structure calls for a division and sharing of administrative responsibilities among the chancellor, secretary, treasurer, and director of ministry and communications, all of whom will report directly to the Metropolitan. The change allows for increased professionalism and shared responsibility, fostering openness and mutual accountability. A committee was appointed to initiate a search for interested and qualified candidates.
The new structure will provide clear reporting channels and job descriptions for all chancery personnel. Further, the number of central administrative employees will be reduced, resulting in an anticipated $500,000.00 decrease in staff expenses.
Metropolitan Council members established a charity committee, to be chaired by the Very Rev. John Reeves, to recommend priorities for allocation of existing charities and to determine future charitable projects. At their September 2006 meeting, members of the Metropolitan Council established finance, audit, and investment committees.
Council members also named the Very Rev. Philip Reese as chair of the investment committee, and Mary Caetta, CPA, as chair of the audit committee. All four committees will be seeking volunteers among the faithful willing to offer their expertise.
Metropolitan Council members authorized the transmittal of $10,000.00 to His Grace, Bishop Alejo, for general support for the Exarchate of Mexico.
A 2007 draft budget, designed to be “real” and balanced, was thoroughly examined. The draft budget was formulated by the finance committee, chaired by the Very Rev. Matthew Tate. Several new initiatives pointed to the ongoing intention of Metropolitan Council members to maximize spending on programs, such as the full funding of seminarian internships. The 2007 approved budget will be posted on the OCA web site.
In other actions,
Attorney James Thomas Perry spoke on “A Review of Director Liability Standards,” offering much clarity on this topic.
it was announced that the previous long-standing Metropolitan Council Administrative Committee positions have been vacated.
it was agreed by the hierarchs and members of the Metropolitan Council that time constraints would make it impossible to convene an All-American Council in 2007, instead of the previously announced 2008.
The Metropolitan Council authorized the sale of the property on Martin Drive in Syosset, formerly used as the home of the OCA chancellor.
A detailed report on the joint meeting will appear in the January-February 2007 issue of “The Orthodox Church” news magazine.”
OCANews.org has learned additional details of the reorganization plan. As reported to the Synod and Council, the major findings of the Task Force are as follows:
“All authority and responsibility for the administrative functioning of the OCA resided in the position of the Chancellor, including functions that are appropriately associated with the other statutory positions found in the Statutes, specifically the Treasurer and Secretary. This existing structure did not allow for a broad spectrum of advice and recommendations to flow between the Metropolitan and all members of his staff.
- The proposed target organizational structure distributes authority more evenly among the statutory positions of the Church: Chancellor, Treasurer and Secretary, while also recognizing the need providing for additional emphasis on the ministries of the Church and its communication of these ministries both internally and externally.
- Job descriptions for the officers of the Church as specified in the Statutes are included with this report. In addition five additional job descriptions are submitted for selected key administrative positions. Once this Task Force report has been officially adopted and accepted, it is recommended that the action proceed immediately to recruit for the four senior positions reporting to the Metropolitan and to implement the subordinate structure by reassignment of existing staff, wherever possible.
- The proposed target organizational structure significantly reduces the administrative expenses of the OCA. It does this by a reduction of positions from the present 29 to 23. Current staffing has already been reduced from the previous 37 positions listed as part of payroll at the beginning of 2006. This reduction represents a direct salary reduction of 16.5% from the present payroll with additional expense reductions of approximately 25-35% associated with benefits. In addition, housing allowance expenses in excess of $140,000 will be realized through the proposed change in structure.”
It was not announced which positions would be reduced, although comments posted on this website this morning indicate that long-time OCA Comptroller Fr. Stephen Strikis has been let go.
New Figures Emerge
In addition to adopting the above structural changes, the joint meeting was noteworthy in the number of new names present and appointed to positions, while more familiar names from the past were absent. New Council members Gregory Nescott, attorney from Pittsburgh, and Fr. John Reeves, a parish priest from State College PA, were appointed to the Investigative Committee; new Council member Mary Caetta, a CPA from the Diocese of the West, was appointed to chair of the new Audit Committee, and Fr. Reeves, again, appointed to chair the new Charity Committee. On the other hand, all the positions on the Metropolitan Council’s Administrative Committee were declared “vacant”. The Administrative Committee, which has served as an executive committee for the Council in the past, had included Fr. Gregory Safchuk, Fr. John Onofrey, Mr. Robert Kornafel and Dr. Alice Woog. A new Administrative Committee was not announced.
Among the hierarchs, Bishop Benjamin of Berkeley, the newly-named administrator of the Diocese of the West was appointed to the Investigative Committee, joining Archbishop Job of Chicago. Absent from the meeting, however, was Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas, who excused himself on account of illness. The Archbishop’s absence precluded any immediate disciplinary measures being taken against those named in the Proskauer Rose report.
Another new name mentioned in the OCA’s press release was Attorney James T. Perry, who spoke to the Council and Synod of liability standards. OCANews.org has learned that Mr. Perry, an OCA parishioner from New York City has been informally assisting Syosset in the absence of the official church legal counsel for several weeks now. Mr. Perry was one of the chief signers of the “lawyer’s letter” sent to the Synod and Council earlier this year, encouraging transparency and accountability. (Read that story here)
Press Picks Up On Story Again
The initial public announcement of Proskauer Rose's findings by the OCA was carried in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which has been following the story since it broke in March. You can read Ann Rodgers' report here: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06348/746018-84.stm