January 11, 2019
Dear Parishioners for Justice:
I am writing this letter to PfJ exasperated that there is apparently nowhere else to turn, no parish or diocesan official who accepts accountability for the gross, if not fraudulent, mismanagement of St. Isabel Parish. The Finance Council (FC) of St. Isabel, the Diocesan Chancellor (DC), and the Director of the Diocesan Finance Department (DDF) have chosen to remain mum in addressing important issues that have been raised. Twelve parishioners expressed some concerns about the reporting in the bulletin of parish finances in an open letter mailed to FC, DC, and DDF on December 10. On receiving no response, I wrote a letter to Parishioners for Justice on December 27 expressing my frustration. Posting of this letter elicited a response from the chair of the FC. This letter addressed none of the specific issues that were raised in the letter from the parishioners. It concentrated on procedures and regulations. This letter also chastised the parishioners who wrote a sincere inquiry, stating that the questions raised could have been addressed through a “simple phone call.” I wrote a response to the letter from the chair of the FC and sent it to the FC, DC, and DDF on December 31. This letter pointed out my dissatisfaction with the “response” from the chair of the FC. This letter has not yielded a response. I cannot think of a good reason for the absence of any response, but the apparent mismanagement of the parish and of parishioner resources cannot be ignored.
I pointed out some of the issues in my last letter. Let me be specific about a few of them.
The chair claims that weekly collections are reported in the bulletin with “normal accounting procedures [providing] for the rounding up or down of `cents’ to the nearest whole dollar.” In fact, reported collection numbers include cents sometimes and not at other times. Appropriate accounting demands consistency. The inconsistency in reporting cents may signal some more serious inconsistencies in accounting. Additionally, the Diocese of Venice posts contributions to the CFA from each parish approximately weekly on its web site. Contributions are listed as dollars and cents. For St. Isabel, the “cents” are stuck at 95. This contradicts the fact that a 68 cent test contribution was made on November 4. That number did not register. Neither was that number rounded up to $1 and reported. That amount disappeared. It is common practice for banks to run experiments on a few cents to determine legitimacy of accounts and transactions. These tests typically involve amounts much less than $.68. Failure of a test raises a red flag. The failure of St. Isabel to properly account for $.68 raises its own flag.
Appended is a graph that presents the weekly parish contributions to the CFA reported in the St. Isabel Bulletin for the months of June through September, 2018. Also provided is a graph depicting the amounts the Diocese of Venice reported on its web site of contributions from St. Isabel to the CFA for this same period of time. These reports are completely different. It is not known if either of these reports is accurate. Should the Diocesan report be deemed correct, then it is clear that no work was being done by the administration of the parish even to try to provide accurate information to the people of St. Isabel.
The Diocese states that the assessment for the CFA for each parish is some 26% of collections for the previous year. The administration of St. Isabel claims a serious drop in revenue. If that is true, there should have been a “serious drop” in the CFA “tax.” However, there is no decrease in St. Isabel’s assessment, while the assessment for other parishes adjust. It would seem that the FC is derelict in its duty to monitor funds and assessments of St. Isabel. There are many other numbers in the “St. Isabel Parish Financial Report for the Fiscal Year 2017-2018” that raise serious suspicions.
I note, again, that the St. Isabel Financial Report was sent to only some subset of registered parishioners. This report was incomplete and was apparently sent as a contravention of Diocesan requirements for the distribution and content of that document. The Diocesan document, 2018 “Financial Policies and Procedures for Parishes & Schools”, states that the Financial Council:
As required by canon 1287 paragraph 2 and Particular law of the Diocese, assist in preparing/presenting/communicating an annual financial report (assets, liabilities, net assets, revenues and expenses) to all parishioners published in the Parish bulletin by September 30 of each year. Specific information should be included on the Parish, School, Parish organizations, and memorial garden/columbarium.
Thus, the Financial Report violates Canon Law and Particular law of the Diocese.
Although there are many other questions, I will raise just one more at this time. The report of contributions to the CFA prepared by the Diocese of Venice lists the number of families in St. Isabel Parish as ranging from 856 to 868 in the weekly reports from February 5 to November 12, 2018. Then the 868 families listed on November 12 goes to 634 on November 19 and differs only by 1 from that date through January 3, 2019. The drop of 234 families in one week is peculiar. Adding to my confusion is the fact that the report from St. Isabel purportedly for the period July, 2017 – July, 2018 lists the number of families as only 555! Such huge disparities in numbers does nothing to inspire confidence in the ability or desire of the administration to provide quantitatively accurate reports or monitor the resources of the parish.
In light of the unwillingness of the administration to be responsive to questions about its management of the parish and its demonstrable inability to quantify and carefully monitor activities and resources of the parish, it seems imprudent to provide more resources through the Casino night or Orchid Ball at this time. There are many fine and reputable charities that are more than willing transparently to provide information about their use of resources that inspires confidence.