Source: The National Herald
CHICAGO, IL – The District Attorney’s office of the State of Wisconsin plans to indict Rev. James Dokos, priest of the Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Glenview, IL for theft (embezzlement). The charges follow a yearlong investigation of the Trust of an elderly parishioner who appointed Dokos as trustee.
If convicted, Dokos may have to pay a fine up to $25,000 and face up to 10 years in prison.
TNH reported last August that the whole issue started in 2008 Margaret Franczak, a parishioner at the Annunciation Church in Milwaukee, WI shortly before her passing 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, Dokos wrote the first check to himself for $5,000 his fee as trustee. He also wrote checks to his personal credit card totaling about $50,000, and checks to his family members and himself totaling $75,000.
Dokos also wrote checks to Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos totaling $7,200, one check to Metropolitan Tarasios of South America for $10,000 and one of $4,500 to Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanelia, Director of the Athenagoras Institute of Orthodox Theology in California.
Franczak also transferred her Florida apartment to Dokos, which he sold.
In May 2012, Demetrios transferred Fr. Angelo Artemas from Saints Peter and Paul to Annunciation in exchange for Dokos, who went to Sts. Peter and Paul parish.
After it became known that the Attorney General planned to indict Dokos, the Chicago Metropolis in a June 20 letter placed Dokos on “administrative leave effective immediately,” and suspended him “from his pastoral and administrative duties as parish priest.”
Dokos did not respond to TNH’s request for comment.
Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, however, spoke with TNH at length about the matter.
He said things have reached this point “because the Parish Council of Milwaukee refused to meet with the Metropolis of Chicago on three occasions, and I have it all in writing. Our initial investigation from a committee that I had set up found that nothing had been done inappropriately according to the Trust. They had all the documents, they wouldn’t give us the documents; they had information that we didn’t have and we invited them to share them with us but they didn’t want to, they wanted to go directly to the District Attorney. After nine months, the District Attorney decided to indict Fr. Dokos.”
But why wait until now to suspend Dokos? “Because they were was no formal charges, it was just discussion and investigation,” Demetrios said.
Though labeled an “administrative leave,” Demetrios told TNH that essentially, Dokos’ days in Glenview are done. A new priest will be appointed, and Dokos’ future remains uncertain.
Regarding money he received from Dokos, Demetrios said it was “for pastoral visits for a four-year period,” and added that Dokos “also gave to Athenagoras…Tarasios…and Nikitas.
“I don’t charge,” for pastoral visits, he said, “it was a gift. Don’t you think Methodios gets a gift or Athenagoras, or Iakovos? Don’t you tip the priest when he comes to baptize your baby or something?”
Demetrios says he sees nothing ethically wrong with metropolitans receiving gifts, but certainly finds fault with misappropriation of funds, as Dokos has allegedly done.
As for the apartment Franczak transferred to Dokos, “I don’t see where the problem is. He received the gift. Did he ask for the gift? I don’t know. Did he pressure her? I don’t know. Did she want to give it to him because she loved him? I don’t know. I don’t know the answers to those questions without asking other questions. All I know that document says that he is to get the house.”
But why did Dokos give money to those other metropolitans, had they made pastoral visits, too? “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask them that question,” Demetrios replied.
Demetrios acknowledged that the money he received from Dokos came from the Franczak Trust, but said he had no reason to believe it was given inappropriately. “The check was drawn from the Trust and I didn’t ask to see the documents to make sure I was eligible to have the money.”
Demetrios says he made the Dokos-Artemas double-switch because both men had wanted to be transferred for years, “so I asked them both together if they would like to switch parishes two years ago and they both said ‘yes’ and I have witnesses to that. The then-presidents of both parish councils know the truth about that.”
The reason Glenview Parish Council President Jim Gottreich was removed had nothing to do with the Dokos case, Demetrios says. Rather, it was because “we told him do not have secret meetings of the parish about your priest; you have to invite your priest and we have to discuss this together. He insisted, and we removed him. He apologized and I have his apology letter, too. We reinstated him to the Parish Council, but it was they who decided not to elect him president again; they elected him vice president.”
Demetrios emphatically proclaimed that Dokos at no time attempted to interfere with the judicial process. As for his own finances, Demetrios says: “they can look at my personal taxes all they want.”[subscribe2]
The responses and self-justifications of Bishop Demetrios in the National Herald report show a Bishop who is insensitive, obtuse and irresponsible regarding his episcopal duties and his relationship with parish priests who serve under his discipline and authority.
1. Bishop Demetrios characterizes the money he received from Fr. Dokos as payment for “pastoral visits over a four year period…”, Now His Grace, as a Bishop for many years and prior thereto, a long term priest , knows full well that the honoraria ((referred to by his Grace as “TIPS”) given to Bishops on the occasion of their pastoral visits to a parish are given by the PARISH and not by the priest from his own personal account or a trust account which he manages.
2. Bishop Demetrios justifies his acceptance of the money because other Bishops also accept gifts..He sees nothing wrong with Metropolitans receiving gifts. The question is not whether or not Bishops may receive gifts. Rather the question is whether Bishops may properly accept gifts amounting to thousands of dollars from priests who are subject to their discipline and authority. ?
3 . Although he acknowledges he knew the checks given to him by Fr. Dokos were drawn on the Trust , His Grace says he had no reason to question whether or not they were authorized and therefore did not ask to see the documents to make sure he was eligible to receive the money. Possibly so, but didn’t it even cross his mind as a responsible Bishop that if the trust authorized gifts , the gifts were probably intended to be for the benefit of the Metropolis and not for the personal benefit of its Bishops?
4. Trying to justify his failure to take any action with Fr. Dokos over the past nine months
until the proposed indictment was announced, Bishop Demetrios protests that the Milwaukee Parish Council , despite his requests, refused to share with him the documents and information they had.. Any way you look at it, that is a very lame excuse. Fr. Dokos had the originals of the pertinent documents – the Trust Agreement, the canceled checks and the check book. All that Bishop Demetrios had to do was to request (or even order) Fr. Dokos to give them to him. Could it be that His Grace’s failure to exercise good judgement in this respect may be attributed to his having been a recipient of Trust checks from Fr. Dokos ?
5. If the monies received by Bishop Demetrios were “gifts”, then they are not income for Federal Income Tax purposes. But if they were , as Bishop Demetrios states, “TIPS” for “pastoral visits over a four year period ” , I suggest that His Grace consult his tax advisor as to whether or not such TIPS are reportable as taxable income.
6. .At the time he received the monies from the Trust, Bishop Demetrios did not know that the monies were stolen property. Now that he knows the these payments to him were not authorized by the Trust Documents and were therefore stolen funds, has Bishop Demetrios returned the money he received from the Trust to the Annunciation Church?
Evan Alevizatos Chriss
1055 W, Joppa Road
Baltimore, MD. 21204
The allegations and innuendo by Mr. Chriss are almost laughable. Honoraria are traditional, be it for a priest or a bishop. Another word for these are gratuities. I often leave a gratuity for my server at a restaurant. Commonly these are called “tips.” What is wrong with providing a gratuity–a mark of thanks–to anyone, be it a food server, a priest or a bishop? If I were a priest, I don’t think I would want Mr. Chriss as a parishioner if he’s that stingy… In any case, the Greek version of the interview used a general Greek word that can be translated gratuity, honorarium, or “tip”, and Mr. Chriss should probably rely on the original text and not someone’s translation.
According to the checks posted on another website, not all these checks received for the Bishop were for his personal use. One is clearly earmarked for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Bishop Demetrios is the Chancellor of the Chicago Metropolis, acting at the behest of the Metropolitan. Why does Mr. Chriss criticize the subordinate and not the head? Bishop Demetrios is not responsible for this investigation–and according to documentation on another sensationalized website, was not a participant in the committee that initially investigated this circumstance. Why shoot the messenger? If the legal counsel initially investigating found nothing wrong–and there is no conviction, much less an actual filed charge yet–why should Bishop Demetrios or the Metropolitan remove a priest based on an allegation? Are we not innocent until proven guilty?
Likewise, if Rev. Dokos is guilty, why does Mr. Chriss presume he would hand over incriminating documents to his bishop? Is he stupid? (An ambiguous sentence on purpose.)
Does Mr. Chriss know that Bishop Demetrios did NOT claim these gifts as income on his taxes? Why does he presume Bishop Demetrios would not? Is he stupid? (Again, ambiguous on purpose.)
Does Mr. Chriss know if the Trust to which he refers permit the distribution of gifts to clergy as the Trustee saw fit? Receiving stolen property is a crime, and in all the media reports related to the District Attorney in Milwaukee, none has mentioned Bishop Demetrios as allegedly committed any crime.
It seems to me that Mr. Chriss does not like Bishop Demetrios very much, with all these spurious and unfounded allegations.
Mr. Demos is minimizing the serious issues that bear on Bishop Demetrios. You should not judge a bishop or a priest by the same standards as the layman. A bishop and a priest are in a position of trust. We confide in them our deepest secrets – and we trust them to do the right thing. We accept and don’t question their judgments and decisions. Like a judge in court, we hold them to a higher standard. Bishop Demetrios has failed the test by his obfuscation and ‘off the cuff” remarks.
It’s sad if you cannot trust your bishop.
I am saddend that there are Orthodox Christians who hold our Bishops in such a low esteem.as does Mr. Demos.
I called the gifts given by parishes to their Bsihop on the occasion of his pastoral visit an “honorrarium” .It is Bishop Demetrios and Mr Demos who demean the office of Bishop by referring to it as a “TIP” , an expression of thanks for good service The honorarium given to a Bishop , in its true sennse, is not a gratuity or a TIP for good service. It is a gift given by the Parish as a small token of their love and respect for their Bishop.
As Bishop Demetrios knows full well – such gifts – whether honoraria or TIPS -are given by Parishes to their Bishops and not by Parish priests.
It boggles the imagination that Mr. Demos justiffies the checks Fr. Dokos wrote for himself (stealing) because he wrote one for the Patriarchate. What kind of morality or ethics is that ?
Fr. Dokos is innocent and not guilty until convicted in a court of law. However, the Metropolis of Chicago must discipline its priets on the basis of the Canons of the Orthodox Church .Its actions concerning its priests are not dependant upon or determoned by the actions of secular Courts of Law.
When a priest is under the cloud of being investgated for alleged crimes, for the good of the parish and its communicants., he must be temporarily suspended from his priestly duties.. Orthodox Christians should not be put into the position of being led in worship and receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion from a priest who is suspected of stealing money.. Temporary suspension is not a finding of guilt.
As Chancellor of The Metropolis of Chicago, Bishop Demetrios regulates and disciplines the priests of the Metropolis on behalf of the Metropolitan.. He acts under the authority of and in the name of the Metropolitan. By the way, WHERE IS THE METROPOLITAN??? Fr. Dokos is his priest and Bishop Demetrios ih his Chancellor.
Fr. Dokos is under the authority and discipline of Bishop Demetrios. When a Bishop who is sensitive to the welfare of his Diocese becomes aware that one of his priests is beuing investigated about stealing monies from a trust he administers, ,he calls in the priest and asks him to -produce the check book and the cancelled checks. HOW DARE A PRIEST SAY NO, However, Mr. Demos believes that any priest who responded to such a request (order?) by giving his Bishop “incriminating documents” would be “stupid” !!! What kind of priests and what kind of bishops does Mr. Demos believes serve the Orthodox Church ?
Mr. Demos correctly says that Bishop Demetrios has not been charged with receiving stolen property. But if Fr. Dokos is coinvicted of stealing from the trust and Bishop Demetrios has not or does not return his TIPS to the Church of the Annunciation in Milwaukee, then certainly he may be charged with receiving and keeping stolen property, And if fthis is not so under our secular law, it cerainly should be required by our Canon Law applicable to Clergy and Laity alike..
What a mess. A priest charged wiuth stealing from the Church and a Bishop who tries to justify his receipt of a portion of such stolen money from a priest under his authority and discipline !!!
Evan Alevizatos Chriss
Are you high on incense?
It is my opinion that Philip Demos is actually one of the Bishop’s minions who comes out from the shadows hiding behind fakes names to do the Bishop’s bidding (most likely it is Fr. David Bissias based on the IP address of the comment coming from Hammond Indiana). He has commented on other sites as well and is the ONLY commenter who has defended the Bishop’s actions….extremely obvious.
I agree with you regarding the pseudonym the bishop is using in defending Fr. Dokos and himself on this issue regarding the illicit distribution of funds from a trust. I’m sure that he made good use of the TIPS he received from this Trust. Next time you see him in church, check out his new jeweled miter.
The age of hierarchy and privileged clerics and the respect and reverence showed to them in the past, is over and so is the Byzantine Empire.
With peace and respect to all,