Metropolitan Council supports investigation committee, approves best practices, establishes ethics committee

Members of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting under the chairmanship of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman at the OCA Chancery here, concluded their two day session with a number of major decisions and accomplishments.

BEST PRACTICES: In its first act of the day, Council members completed their work on a document titled OCA “Best Practices, Principles and Policies for Financial Accountability.” Council members voted unanimously to approve the document, which had been the subject of considerable discussion and debate. The policies are both broad and specific, covering general guiding principles for good management, as well as specific structures and processes concerning ethics, conflict of interest, whistleblowing, internal audits, donor rights, and document retention. In approving a 21-page description of Best Practices, the Council laid out expectations for performance, as well as processes and penalties for non-compliance.

ETHICS COMMITTEE: The board voted unanimously to establish from among its members an ethics committee. This three-member group will be responsible for investigating and making recommendations on any and all allegations concerning ethics and in dealing with questions concerning possible conflict of interest involving those who “govern” the Church: that is, members of the Holy Synod of Bishops, the Metropolitan Council and its committees, the central administration management, and staff, both paid and unpaid. Elected to serve on the committee were the Very Rev. Mark Sherman from the Diocese of the New England, Mr. Gregory Nescott from the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania, and Mr. L. William Peters from the Albanian Archdiocese.

INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE: Council members adopted a resolution calling for the continuation of the special committee established to investigate financial malfeasance affecting the Church, including IRS implications. In approving the resolution, Council members cited the need to discern how the malfeasance occurred and how it can be prevented in the future. While acknowledging their Primate’s authority to take action for the good of the Church, they spoke of the need for the faithful of the Church to know as much as possible about what went wrong systemically. Metropolitan Herman agreed with the need for further investigation, but cited confidential reasons for temporarily suspending the committee’s operations.

The Council requested that Metropolitan Herman release to the public the preliminary report of the Special Investigative Committee. However, he determined that the dissemination of any documents that relate to the pending ecclesiastical court trial against the former chancellor, Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, would be inappropriate at this time and could be construed by some as an attempt to compromise the independence of the Court. Once the Court has issued its judgment, the Metropolitan will consider the appropriateness of its release.

CLOSING ON THE MARTIN DRIVE PROPERTY: Council members heard a report that the sale of the Martin Drive property is complete and that the net proceeds [$537,000.00] were transferred directly to the Honesdale Bank, in partial repayment of a $1.7 million loan.

CHARITY DISBURSEMENTS: Council members unanimously authorized distribution of $157,000.00 in charity funds. These funds had been collected or granted for specific purposes—for 9/11 victims and for Bibles to be distributed in Russia. Today’s decision continues the process of correcting the effects of financial violations in which funds with specific purposes were diverted for unauthorized uses and for which a major portion of the $1.7 million loan was needed.

FIFTEENTH AAC: The Very Rev. Myron Manzuk, who has been assigned to pursue preparatory research work for the forthcoming All-American Council in 2008, submitted his report to the Council. He will be visiting the Chancery next week for additional discussions with Metropolitan Herman and his staff concerning site selection, dates for the All-American Council, format, and agenda items. It is expected that a proposal will be made ready by mid-October 2007 for discussion at the next Metropolitan Council meeting. It is expected that a Pre-Conciliar Commission will be nominated by the Metropolitan Council for appointment by the Holy Synod for the detail planning and preparation for the All-American Council. The mid-October meetings of the Metropolitan Council and Holy Synod will overlap, allowing for joint discussions on this and other items.

OTHER AGENDA ITEMS: Update reports from the Chancery Reorganization Task Force, Systems Information Financial Department, Development and FOS Department, and the completed Best Practices Principles and Policies for Financial Accountability in its entirety, will be posted on the OCA web site at separately over the next few days.

Prior to the closing prayer, the members of the Metropolitan Council were thanked for their work in strengthening and improving the administrative functioning of the Church.