Troy Story Update
Following our story of October 26th concerning the ongoing conflict over finances, audits, accountability and transparency in St. George's parish in Troy, MI (here), two of the major figures in the controversy have written to OCANews.org to clarify statements sent in by readers. In addition, the Minutes of the Parish Council meeting of September 30th offer new and surprising new details concerning Metropolitan Philip's statements about audits, and decisions by HUD.
Samra on the Checks
Mr. George Samra, the Treasurer of the parish offered this response to the suggestion by a reader that the disputed checks signed by a deceased Treasurer had, in fact, been pre-signed:
An important note. Two people have written in and indicated that the late treasurer at St. George signed and left checks in advance of her passing.
During my tenure as treasurer, I had access to the checks, paid bills, and signed them, and passed them to Fr. Antypas for his signature. None of the checks had the late treasurers signature. And in fact, for example, checks 1, 2, & 3, 5, 6, & 7 were signed by me and Fr. Antypas and check # 4 was "signed" by the late treasurer.
I worked with a standard check book ledger with three checks to a page. All the checks were blank.
I generally came to the church on Wednesday afternoons, and worked after services on Sunday to write checks. Many checks were written by Fr. Antypas (the only other signer on the account) on the alternate days.
These checks were not pre-signed.
If point of fact, the former treasurer was not the treasurer when she passed away. She had left that post some years before, and there had been several interim treasurers, still living. I really feel it was convenient for Fr. Antypas to use her signature, since she was no longer with us, and unable to object to this forgery. Still living former treasurers could easily bring suit.
On a different point, one of the comments indicated I was moving around the pews during the doxology discouraging people from donating. I sing in the choir. The only time I move out of the pew is to allow my fellow choir members out so that they may take communion as I stand next to my wife and watch.
George D. Samra"
In his note to OCANews.org, Mr. David Thomas, a member of the Parish Council of St. George's, also disputes the notion that Mr. Samra attempted to influence people during services. Mr. Thomas writes:
"Mr. Samra never left his position in the choir during that service and all those who were in attendance in the choir on that day will vouch for him.
Nor has Mr. Samra ever discussed with anyone about their giving to St. George. Many have stopped giving as a way to protest the decision by the council to not have an audit."
Parish Council Minutes
The September 30th Parish Council Minutes provide equally revealing information on the ongoing struggle. Metropolitan Philip is quoted in the latest Minutes as saying “that if a audit is done all churches must be involved and cost will be covered 30% from Archdiocese and 70% from each church.” No further explanation was given concerning the Metropolitan's assertion, but the Metropolitan has clearly changed his mind. The Metropolitan appointed an internal audit committee for the Archdiocese on October 17th, with no provision that all parishes must be involved, and at the full expense of the Archdiocese itself.
As regards the question of financial transparency, the Council corrected its earlier Minutes to reflect that “ A Resolution signed by Council Members was not to remove George Samra and Dave Thomas,” (who attended the September 30th meeting) but “ to give Farther Antypas support on his direction regarding all problems brought against St. George” The Council then agreed “to approve (the) Financial Report and place monthly on bulletin board the following: New Building Fund, Income, Expenses, Balance Sheet and also note in Observer that these reports are posted on Board.“ The "Observer" is the parish bulletin.
As regards the disputed financials of the nearby St. George Towers Development, a HUD housing project owned by the Church, the Council noted that “Omega Productions will only receive $1,500.00 until end of year." (Omega Productions is a company owned by the assistant pastor at St. Georg,. Fr. Aymen Kfouf. ) "This money used to help off set Father Aymen's salary but due to information getting back to HUD this no longer can happen.”