Synod Defrocks Gounaris & Ehrs, Suspends Dokos
NEW YORK – The Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America during its spring meeting decided to punish Rev. James Dokos of Chicago with a one-year suspension for stealing money from a trust fund established by a parishioner in Milwaukee, WI.
Dokos pleaded guilty to felony theft on February 22, admitting to stealing more than $100,000. He repaid the money, and if he stays out of trouble for a year and performs 40 hours of community service, the felony theft charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor. The one-year punishment, which the Synod confirmed, was determined by the Chicago Metropolis’ Spiritual Court.
TNH reported in August 2013 that the whole issue started in 2008 when Margaret Franczak, a parishioner at the Annunciation Church in Milwaukee, shortly before her death established the nearly-$2 million Ervin J. Margaret S. Franczak Trust, designating Dokos as Trustee.
The Trust was created to benefit the Annunciation parish, which did receive $1.1 million, but which alleges that Dokos had used large amounts of money from the Trust. After many unsuccessful requests to Dokos to provide a complete accountability, the parish referred the matter to the District Attorney and asked him to investigate.
According to hundreds of documents obtained by TNH, and as TNH has reported, Dokos wrote several checks to himself, family members, and clergy colleagues, including Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, chancellor of the Metropolis of Chicago. Franczak also transferred her Florida apartment to Dokos, which he sold.
In May 2012, Bishop Demetrios transferred Fr. Angelo Artemas from Saints Peter and Paul to Annunciation in exchange for Dokos, who went to Sts. Peter and Paul parish.
Finally, one day before his trial Dokos, pleaded guilty to avoid imprisonment.
The Holy Synod also recommended the defrocking of Rev. Anastasios Gounaris for abandoning his parish, the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, FL, and his family, to go with his mistress to Crete and Canada.
Gounaris notified his parish and his bishop, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, via an email from the airport as he was leaving.
He wrote on June 11, 2015 among other things that “it has been an honor serving Christ’s Church for nearly 32 years and to have had the privilege of serving St. Nicholas Cathedral for the past year. During that year I have been fortunate to benefit from the welcome, advice, support and assistance of many of you. However it is, at best, naive to believe that one priest can serve such a busy and thriving parish nonstop without it exacting an emotional and physical toll. After much soul-searching, this led to my decision to relinquish my parish duties and leave the active priesthood. I am convinced that no one benefits when a priest has been stretched beyond his human limits. Going forward I will have limited access to this e-mail account. Those e-mailing me should not expect a response, as I will have limited access to e-mail and phone going forward and will be retreating to assess my future course.
“I am grateful to Metropolitan Alexios, Metropolitan Nikitas and Father Rousakis for their kindnesses and to Council President Nikitas Manias, Vice-President Costas Sisois and the rest of the officers and members of the Parish Council for their support.”
After an unsuccessful three-year tenure as Dean of the Archdiocesan Cathedral in New York, Gounaris was removed by Archbishop Demetrios and accepted by Metropolitan Alexios, who placed him at St. Nicholas.
The Holy Eparchial Synod also recommended the defrocking of Rev. Ephraim Ehrs who was ordained and assigned by Metropolitan Methodios of Boston to The Dominion of the Mother of God Greek Orthodox parish in Burlington, VT.
He had requested a one-month leave of absence, which Methodios granted in a letter to Parish Council President Georgia Maheras and the Church Stewards.
The letter stated that “in a telephone conversation today, your parish priest, Fr. Ephraim Ehrs, requested a one-month leave of absence to attend to personal family matters. He was granted that request with the hope that he can resolve those issues. I ask that you consider allowing him to remain in the parish house for a period of time that you and he agree upon). I have asked Fr. Bob Athas to attend to the pastoral and liturgical needs of the community during this time. Please keep Fr. Ephraim and Presbytera Aimee and their daughter in your prayers.”
No other explanation was given to the parish and as a result, many and different rumors had been circulated. Ehrs disappeared from the parish. His name was brought up in the recent Synod last week by Metropolitan Methodios requesting his defrocking for reasons of ethical nature, as it was reportedly said in the Synod.
Neither Metropolitan Methodios nor Fr. Ehrs responded to TNH’s request for comment.