"Best Practices" On Hold
A flurry of postings in the comments section of OCANews.org from Metropolitan Council members, a former Administration spokesperson, among others, have raised a series of questions about the status and implementation of “Best Practices” in the OCA. Long the flagship of the current administration efforts to bring “order” to Syosset, mention of“Best Practices” was surprisingly absent from the recent joint Synod of
Bishops/Metropolitan Council meeting in Syosset last week. What happened? The question was raised by none other than former OCA spokesperson, Protodeacon Peter Danilchik in a recent posting to OCANews.org. Danilchick wrote:
“The Metropolitan Council at its September 28, 2006 meeting resolved that the Best Practices and Processes would be reviewed by an Attorney versed in New York State law and presented for final adoption at the next MC meeting. The announcement of the results of the most recent MC meeting did not mention any action taken on this item. Further the ocanews.org. report also suggested that there was no action taken. If this were indeed correct, then this would represent very disappointing behavior on the part of the MC. To be disciplined and deliver what one promises is the bedrock of proper governance and accountability.
I think that we are owed a statement and explanation on this by the MC. Have the MC members committed to sign the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policies? Have they committed to the Financial Oversight and Governance principles in the Best Practices? Have they committed to be measured by the detailed audit, financial, transparency and other governance yardsticks in the Best Practices and Policies?
The Best Practices and Policies were designed to be followed and stewarded against. To be blunt, these Practices and Policies need to be officially committed to, both collectively by the MC and individually via signature by each MC member. Nothing less should be expected of them.
Perhaps this was done at the meeting -- but I am concerned that we didn’t hear anything about it.
It was not longer after that Fr. John Reeves, clergy delegate from the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania answered at least one of Deacon Peter’s questions in his own posting to OCANews.org. Fr. Reeves wrote:
The simple fact is that no opinion from an attorney was received by the MC, as required by the previous meeting, in order for us to act at this meeting.
Fr John Reeves”
Fr. Reeves's answer, while fully accurate, does not address the larger question. Why was no opinion from an attorney received as required by the previous meeting? At the last Metropolitan Council meeting Dr. Faith Skordinski was adamant that lawyers had to review “Best Practices” before they could be fully adopted by the Metropolitan Council. According to multiple accounts of the most recent meeting, those present were told that no report would be presented because “Best Practices” had yet to be reviewed by an attorney. But that was simply not true.
OCANews.org has learned that “Best Practices” were indeed submitted for attorney review before the joint meeting - but that Fr. Kucynda, Acting OCA Treasurer, did not like the answers he received apparently. The attorney’s objections to the “Best Practices” - as written by the Metropolitan’s hand-picked committee headed by Protodeacon Danilchik - were substantive. Among the objections were that the current “Best Practices” proposals, while a good start, were incomplete, lacking in teeth, and failed to take into account the special needs of a hierarchical
church in which a hierarch himself is accused of violating the standards set forth.
Indeed, Protodeacon Danilchik himself seems to focus on the same issues - albeit relating to only Metropolitan Council members – when he asked: “Have the MC members committed to sign the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policies? Have they committed to the Financial Oversight and Governance principles in the Best Practices?”
The answer is: No. Not yet. Neither has the Synod.
At present, therefore, “Best Practices” seem up in the air. Hence, the Protodeacon’s emergence from almost two months of silence, asking questions that need to be asked. They need to be answered by the current administration. If “Best Practices”, the one topic on which Syosset has spent so much of the last year, are left to dangle, how can the Church have confidence that anything Syosset proposes will be carried through?
At the recent joint meeting highly-placed supporters of the current administration are reported to have expressed concern that the cost of attorney review of “Best Practices” was simply too high at this time. That is preposterous. OCANews.org contacted a lawyer in New York who stated such a review of an existing document could be done in less than 15 hours, at rate of no more than $400 a hour. If the OCA has spent $300,000 investigating criminal activity, surely it can afford one-fiftieth of that amount, or even one-twenty-fifth that amount, to help make future wrongdoing harder to conceal and easier to expose.
Money is not the issue here, trust is. The Synod and Council need to have these documents reviewed by their March meeting - and then sign them. This would help rebuild the trust they are so desperately seeking to restore. Failure to do so would only be a further sign that it is not actions, but only gestures, that matter; that "Best Practices" was no more than just another Potemkin village along the shore of change.