According to a press release issued on Thursday evening, October 19, 2017 by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Demetrios of America attempted to reassure the faithful that “a forensic audit is under way” of Archdiocesan finances.
This directly contradicts a statement by Archdiocese treasurer Michael Psaros, who emphatically told more than fifty people gathered at the finance committee meeting of the Archdiocese that no forensic audit would take place, due to the complexity and cost involved.
Psaros told those gathered that a forensic audit could begin at $1 million and even reach $2 million, making it cost-prohibitive for the Archdiocese to undertake.
George Vourvoulias, former chairman of the Archdiocesan Council’s finance committee confirmed that Mr. Psaros repeatedly stated that no forensic audit would take place.
“Mr. Psaros was emphatic in the meeting and more than 50 people present heard him loud and clear. He must have said it a half dozen times— no forensic audit of Archdiocese finances will take place,” according to Vourvoulias.
This was also corroborated by Ron Harb from Detroit, who confirmed this statement by Psaros and his decision not to have an audit.
Tom Kanelos, a member of the Finance Committee from Chicago, argued that a forensic audit should take place, suggesting that such a move “would build faith and trust amongst the faithful.”
But Mr. Psaros insisted that such a forensic audit would be impossible because of the cost.
The exact quote from the Archdiocese press release stated that:
“His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios informed the Hierarchs about the financial shortfall and problems of management that the Holy Archdiocese recently faced. The plan of action was discussed by which the Holy Archdiocese will deal with the difficulties. Specifically, it was announced that a forensic audit is under way by a reputable accounting company, while another company will suggest new controls and make recommendations for the correction of omissions of the past for better management.”
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America confirmed in an earlier statement that it is embroiled in a multi-faceted financial scandal that involves deficits approaching $9 million and monies diverted from donations and national ministries to pay operating expenses and non-budgeted projects that were, according to sources, “the Archbishop’s whim.”
According to sources at the finance committee meeting, hundreds of thousands of dollars of Archdiocesan money was diverted from its intended purposes to cover costs associated with the Pan-Orthodox Synod that took place in Crete last year. Money from Archdiocese coffers was also used to pay for the Ecumenical Patriarch’s meeting with Pope Francis in Egypt last year.
Neither of these expenses were budgeted or approved by any lay committees. It remains to be ascertained if these and other excessive expenses were approved by Archbishop Demetrios, who claimed in an earlier press announcement that he only learned of the financial crisis a few months ago.
Almost $3 million that was raised to rebuild St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center was also diverted to cover Archdiocese operating costs, none of which have been audited for years, nor have been made public.
During a call to the Chancellors of the various Metropolises of America on Tuesday October 10th, Bishop Andonios admitted that the “Archdiocese was on a spending frenzy that was unchecked and excessive.”
He also confirmed that a grant from Leadership 100 never reached its intended purpose and instead was used to cover operating costs.
The Archbishop’s statement in the press release was troubling to many who gathered at the New York City Marriott Marquis Hotel on Thursday evening ahead of Friday’s national Archdiocesan Council meeting.
“Either Mr. Psaros is lying or the Archbishop is lying,” one member of the finance committee stated anonymously, adding that “I wish I could speak openly but the reprisal from my Metropolitan would be quick and immediate. What’s happening is an affront to the hundreds of thousands of faithful who tirelessly work to support this church.”
“This is no way to be transparent,” he continued, citing earlier promises by the Archbishop that transparency was needed to regain the trust of the faithful.
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