Sinking Ship? Archdiocese Facing a $10 Million Debt

Author: Theodore Kalmoukos
Date Published: 05/16/2005

BOSTON – The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s debt has reached $10 million, while the possibility for it to exceed that amount cannot be excluded.

At the same time, the over-budget expenses of the Clergy-Laity Congress-approved budget are huge and frequent, according to financial documents, as well as letters by Executive Committee members, obtained by the National Herald.

The legal fees for the year 2004 were budgeted at 200,000, but the actual year-end amount paid came to $1.4 million, which means that it went over budget by $1.2 million according to the financial report (page 7), which was supposed to be distributed to the members of the Archdiocesan Council on Friday, May 13, during the Council’s regular spring meeting. At press time, neither Archbishop Demetrios, nor Archdiocese Finance Director John Barbagallo responded to National Herald’s telephone calls in relation to the exorbitant debt.

The Herald has learned from within the Archdiocese that its finances are at their lowest levels. The same sources told the Herald that legal fees are very high because of cases involving sexual misconduct perpetrated by clergy, as well as the lawsuit filed by members or persons connected with the Orthodox Christian Laity Organization known as OCL about the new Archdiocese Charter, which has been in effect since 2003.

The Herald is informed that there is an increasing number of lay members of the Archdiocesan Council, including members of its Executive Committee, who are worried about the future course of the Archdiocese.

Will the late Archbishop Iakovos’ house be sold?

One of the Executive Committee members, prominent neurosurgeon John Collis of Cleveland, in a letter sent shortly before Easter to all members of the Archdiocesan Council and its Executive Committee stating his concerns for the general course of the Archdiocese.

In the letter, Dr. Collis pointed out that, among other things, ”the current state of our Archdiocese is cause for concern’ presently the Archdiocese is $10 million in debt.”

Dr. Collis also states ”the budget is ignored,” and that ”our financial obligations in settling legal matters (e.g., sexual misbehavior) are increasing.”

Dr. Collis told all members of the Archdiocesan Council ”a thorough assessment of Archdiocesan administrative policies and practices is needed. We, the Council, are responsible for this evaluation. Certainly we have the talent and the resources to resolve these problems ourselves. Our findings should be the primary agenda for our next Clergy-Laity Congress.”

Dr. Collis, who has been serving on the Executive Committee basically since Archbishop Demetrios took the helm as Archbishop of America, concludes his letter by stating, ”now is the time to revitalize our Holy Archdiocese’ tomorrow may be too late.”

Dr. Collis declined to offer any further comment to the National Herald, saying ”I first want to have a discussion at the Archdiocesan Council meeting.”

The Executive Committee met on Thursday afternoon, May 12. It was the first Executive Committee meeting in many months. The Executive Committee is supposed to meet once a month.

The Executive Committee consists of nine members, all appointed by the Archbishop, who is its chairman: Michael Jaharis, of New York, Vice Chairman; George Behrakis of Tewksbury, Massachusetts; John Pappajohn of Des Moines, Iowa; Nicholas Bouras of Summit, New Jersey, Treasurer; Dr. Collis; John Payiavlas of Warren, Ohio; Catherine Bouffides-Walsh of Glastonbury, Connecticut, Secretary; Eleni Huszagh of Portland, Oregon; and Anthony Stefanis of Atlanta, Georgia. Emmanuel Demos, General Council of the Archdiocese, also participates in the Executive Committee meetings.

Although no agenda was sent to the members of the Archdiocesan Council, the Herald has learned that there was some discussion on the issue of the house of the late Archbishop Iakovos. The house is located in a prime location in Rye, New York, right in the boundaries of the Rye Country Club. The late Archbishop purchased it for $90 thousand. Some years later, he transferred it to the Archdiocese with the same amount he paid to purchase it.

The late Archbishop’s wishes were for the house to be used by the Archbishop of America. Today, the value of the house is estimated at $3-5 million.

There seem to be two views held by Archdiocesan officials today: Those who want to sell the house and use the monies to pay part of the huge debt the Archdiocese has incurred (mostly a new debt which was accumulated during the almost six years of the Archiepiscopal ministry of Archbishop Demetrios). And those who do not want to sell the house, but prefer that it be used for the intended purpose.

Archbishop Demetrios does not seem to want to live in that house, but rather chooses to reside in a rented apartment in Manhattan, for which the Archdiocese pays $82,607 per year, as it is recorded on page 7 of the Financial Report. Demetrios has refused to live in either the apartment at Archdiocesan headquarters (where the late Archbishop Iakovos lived his first ten years as Archbishop of North & South America), or in the apartment in the tower of the Holy Trinity Cathedral (where Bishop Savas of Troas, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, currently resides).

Discussions have been held by telephone conference among members of the Archdiocesan Council concerning the number of employees working at the Archdiocese, sources said. The discussions have also touched upon high salaries, benefits and travel expenses which certain employees enjoy, including the leasing of luxury cars and mobile phones, as is the case with a specific lay employee.

According to the financial report obtained by the Herald, Archdiocese Chief Administrator Jerry Dimitriou’s office has an annual budget $411,580. Beyond his salary from the Archdiocese (in excess of $100,000), Mr. Dimitriou also serves as a salaried consultant to the Leadership 100, for which he reportedly receives another $50,000.

In the year 2004, the Office of Archbishop Demetrios spent $562,956, the report states.

The First Archdiocesan District expended $155,551 in 2004, according to the report, while the Department of Communications spent $504,452 and the Finance Department $463,862 (going over budget by $23,162).