Friday, July 24, 2009

Discontent in Palm Springs

So the discontent emerged. Unfortunately, it was not handled as well as it could have been. To start with, however, I must commend the Metropolitan for recommending an audit before one was recommended from the floor. Personally, I am happy with this step. Probably, the audit will not be as thorough as some want, but it is a big first step. Once the Archdiocese gets used to having external audits, and now that there are some upset people paying closer attention to financial matters, the auditing will become more strict until it sooner or later reaches some widely recognized level of accountability.

And after all, we are dealing here with (1) an Orthodox Bishop (2) who is wildly popular for the almost miraculous growth of the archdiocese over the past 35 years. Actually, I am one of Metropolitan Philip’s biggest fans. I trust his leadership and believe with all my heart he has never done anything with archdiocese resources that was immoral or improper, as far as he knows. But Orthodox Bishops are not accountants. Money comes in, money goes out. Urgent needs are met as well as they can be with what resources are available. The Metropolitan doesn’t consult an accountant every time he helps a struggling seminarian or supports a good cause. Ah, but there’s the rub.

His Eminence said at one point today that when he took over the archdiocese (about) 35 years ago, the assets of the archdiocese were $600,000. At that point, he established a two-signature policy to ensure that there would be no fraud. Thirty-five years ago, for a charitable corporation of that size, such a policy was probably sufficient. Today, however, the archdiocese is worth about $60 million. It’s time to update the accountability policy. This is just common sense. There does not have to be any wrongdoing, and those who advocate a strong external audit are not assuming there is any—at least I’m not.

Unfortunately, the floor discussion today turned into a loyalty litmus test. Once this happened, the conversation had to be shut down, thus completely obfuscating the issue. Oh well, at least the issues were raised and His Eminence and the Board of Trustees heard the very loud “no” vote (which was quickly put aside) when the floor was asked to approve the financial report. They know it is time for some more accountability.

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