[Editor’s note: yesterday, Monomakhos published a post the title of which was factually incorrect. We regret that error. In the meantime, we hope that this affair comes to a just and merciful resolution for all concerned, Fr Dokos and his family especially. Perhaps we can hope that the exposure of such financial schemes and the giving of honoraria to bishops to curry favorwill come to an end.]
Source: Chicago Tribune
Glenview priest to be charged with stealing from trust fund
By Alexandra Chachkevitch and Lisa Black
A Greek Orthodox priest in Glenview will be charged with felony theft amid allegations that he took more than $110,000 from a church trust fund to pay personal expenses including shopping trips, upscale dining and Christmas decorations for his home, according to Wisconsin authorities and a criminal complaint.
The Rev. James Dokos is accused of improperly writing tens of thousands of dollars in checks to himself and to pay a personal credit card bill from a trust fund that he controlled, but which was set up primarily to benefit a Milwaukee church where Dokos was the longtime pastor, according to the complaint. He transferred to Saints Peter and Paul Church in Glenview in 2012.
The Tribune reported in October that documents the newspaper obtained also showed that Dokos, while serving as pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Milwaukee, wrote checks from the trust to several high-ranking Greek Orthodox church leaders, including at least $6,750 sent to Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the No.-2 ranking official at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, which oversee dozens of churches in several Midwestern states.
Upon learning of the criminal investigation into Dokos’ handling of the fund, members of the lay leadership of the Glenview church sought to have Dokos temporarily removed from their ministry until the probe’s completion. They were rebuked by Metropolis officials, who instead removed the parish council president from his position. Demetrios, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, also sent a letter to the Milwaukee church in August stating that the Metropolis’ own investigation determined that the funds from the trust were spent properly.
Saints Peter and Paul, which was established in the 1960s, has about 1,300 members. Located in an affluent northern suburb, the church has suffered from dwindling financial support since news of the Dokos investigation broke, lay leaders have said.
The priest will be charged with a Class G felony theft for allegedly misappropriating an amount of money exceeding $10,000, said David Feiss, assistant district attorney for Milwaukee County.
The criminal complaint — which authorities said will be formally filed after they schedule a hearing date with Dokos’ attorney — did not address the checks written to church leaders. Most of the priest’s spending in question occurred between 2008 and 2012, after Dokos signed over the bulk of the trust fund — $1.1 million — to Annunciation Church, according to the complaint.
Milwaukee church leaders, however, told investigators that they were not aware that there was money left over, according to the complaint. The trust called for Dokos to receive $5,000, an automobile and property, and for $20,000 to be distributed among several charities. After that, the “rest, remainder and residue of the Trust Assets were to go to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church to be used exclusively for the construction and maintenance of a Cultural Center,” the criminal complaint states.
Instead, “a great deal of this money was spent on clearly personal expenditures,” the complaint states, detailing checks that Dokos wrote to his daughter and mother and toward his cable bill and medical expenses.
Dokos, 62, who lives in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, could not be reached Thursday. His lawyer described Dokos as the innocent target of Milwaukee church members upset after his transfer to Glenview.
“It is my view that Father Dokos is the victim of a vigilante action by a number of people at the Annunciation church who are unhappy with the archdiocese and Bishop Demetrios because Father Jim was replaced at the Annunciation Church by a different priest,” said Franklyn Gimbel, based in Milwaukee. “They have been pressuring the district attorney’s office overwhelmingly to bring this case. There is absolutely going to be a battle to the conclusion of this case.”
Gimbel said Dokos has not resigned and that his fate will rest with church leaders.
A Metropolis spokesman issued a statement saying it will continue to work with the district attorney’s office and that “we will continue to monitor developments in this case and administer our parishes in accordance with our Archdiocesan Charter and Regulations.”
The Milwaukee County district attorney’s office began investigating Dokos about a year ago after being contacted by officials at the Milwaukee church where Dokos served as a pastor for about 20 years before coming to Glenview.
Annunciation officials told investigators that they first became concerned in early 2013, when they said they found possible discrepancies with the trust fund, which was left by longtime Annunciation parishioners Ervin and Margaret Franczak.
The criminal complaint quotes an email from Dokos, who wrote in response to the questions raised by church leaders at the time: “I STOLE NO MONEY.”
The parish leaders turned to authorities after Bishop Demetrios told members there was no wrongdoing.
The criminal complaint “is total vindication,” said Emmanuel Mamalakis, an attorney for the Milwaukee church who is also a longtime member.
He said church officials could have handled the matter internally if Metropolis leaders had been more responsive to the concerns of Milwaukee church members over the fund.
“We don’t wish for any other church to go through this,” Mamalakis said.
The controversy surrounding the investigation led to tensions between the Metropolis of Chicago and the Glenview church parishioners.
In fall 2013, Metropolitan Iakovos, the leader of the Metropolis of Chicago, denied the church’s request to place Dokos on temporary leave while the investigation continued. He also removed the church’s parish council president, James Gottreich, who had asked for Dokos to be placed on leave, from his post.
“I’ve said the truth will come out, and it obviously has,” said Gottreich, vice president of the parish council. “It’s sad for our church.”
The 20-member parish council will likely gather for an emergency meeting soon, he said, adding he believes Dokos should be removed or at least be put on a leave of absence.
“It’s been a very troubling time for our parish for many months,” said James Santos, president of the Glenview parish council. “The criminal complaint doesn’t come as a surprise.”