Finance Council Top Ethical Concerns: #3: Conflicts of Interest

Yesterday we started what looks like it will be a series on our Top 10 conflicts, contradictions, and possible corruption around the Archdiocese Finance Council.  We only got to #1 and 2yesterday, and today we continue with #3: Conflicts of Interest.

3) Conflicts of Interest

If you are new to the blog, you might want to check out these posts in our “Conflicts of Interest” category to get up-to-speed on the extent of this problem across the Boston Archdiocese.  Regular readers may have already guessed that the Finance Council is not exempt from this problem.

  • Charter says:
  • Article III, Responsibilities, Section L.  “To receive periodic reports on the status of issues arising from the Conflict of Interest Policy”

    Article Xl. Conflict of Interest Policy. “The Finance Council shall adopt and keep in force at all times a Conflict of Interest Policy. Members of the Finance Council will annually complete a disclosure of conflicts of interest and submit it to the Archbishop.”

  • BCI Concerns:
  • 1) Where is the Conflict of Policy published?

    2) What teeth does it have?  Who enforces it?  What if the people who are “keeping it in force” themselves have conflicts of interest?

    3) What if people complete a disclosure of conflicts of interest and submit it to the Archbishop, and it sits and goes nowhere like nearly all of the letters and other paperwork that goes to his office these days?  Does the Archbishop read and sign these conflict of interest disclosures with a notary witnessing that he personally signed the statements?  Do the conflicts get discussed publicly?  Are people with conflicts banned from being admitted to the Council?  Are they asked to leave or not attend meetings and/or are they barred from discussing particular topics in committee, outside of meetings, or on the main Council?

    4) How do people who have prior relationships with the Chancellor reconcile those with assessing his performance?  Yesterday we talked about how a newcomer to the Finance Council member, Laura Sen, was formerly on the Board of the Abington Savings Bank when Chancellor Jim McDonough was CEO of the bank.  She was rewarded for her service there by realizing somewhere between $340,000 and $360,000 in stock value. What good is a paper the Conflict of Interest policy is written upon if it lets her on the Finance Council given that conflict of interest?  Whether she sold that stock and pocketed the gain at the time or or not, is everyone OK with the obvious conflict of interest that she profited from prior service with the Chancellor, and one of her core responsibilities now is assessing whether the Chancellor should stay in the job or be replaced?

    5) How do the conflicts in decision-making with St. Johns Seminary get reconciled?  In our series, “Seminary Squeezola” we talked about how Chancellor Jim McDonough, who is on the Finance Council, is also on the Board of St. Johns Seminary.  The main interest of the Chancellor—finding money anyplace he can to keep Corporation Sole afloat—is not necessarily aligned with the main interest of the seminary—whose mission is to educate and form future priests.  We know that Cardinal O’Malley, Chancellor McDonough and Vicar General Fr. Erikson have all voted according to documents online, in direct conflict with the best interest of the seminary in order to benefit Corp Sole. Given that the Archdiocese owes  $4.8 million to the seminary in January and another $36 million in 2017, how in the world can the chief finance officer of the archdiocese, McDonough–the borrower–sit on both the archdiocesan Finance Council and on the Seminary Board?  In case it is not clear, we have the person whose employer owes an entity $41 million sitting on the board of the entity to whom his employer is indebted.  Who made that decision and feels there is no conflict today?  What if McDonough representing the archdiocese, feels he needs to sell the rest of the seminary space in order to pay off the debts that he, representing the archdiocese, owes the  seminary?  How does that get reconciled?

    6) How do conflicts of interest with Partners Healthcare get reconciled?  The Boston Globe quoted Jack Connors in “The Invisible hand of Jack” as having “no greater passion than Partners HealthCare.”   Finance Council life member, John Kaneb, is also on the Partners board. How did the conflicts of interest of Partners potentially wanting some of the Caritas Christi assets in the future get reconciled with the archdiocesan interests of preserving Catholic healthcare?  Did they recuse themselves from any and all discussions relative to Caritas?  Let us go a step further.  Should, hypothetically speaking, the idea emerge of selling archdiocesan property such as Regina Cleri (the retirement home for priests) to their next-door neighbor, Partners/Mass General Hospital, will Connors and Kaneb be recused from all formal and informal discussions?   Is the weight of their presence and the ongoing relationship with them going to influence council members?  The Globe acknowledges, “Who is going to say no when Jack comes calling?”  Who would represent the needs of the present and retired clergy?

    7. How did the conflict of interest of the Archdiocese lending $20 million to Jack Connors’ Catholic Schools Campaign get reconciled, while the archdiocese was also deciding to not fund employee and retiree pension plans, including to current and former Catholic school employees?  Who floated the idea in the first place?  Was Jack asked to not be present for any and all discussions?  Did he vote?

     

Does it occur to anyone else but these bloggers that whatever Conflict of Interest policy is in place and whatever means through which it is executed is somewhere between just a little bit flawed and so ineffective as to be meaningless?

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has their Conflict of Interest policy publicly posted.  Among their standards, it is prohibited for responsible individuals to…

Use their position to secure personal gain or other benefits derived from such relationship.

Invest or hold a financial interest, directly or indirectly, in any business entity, transaction or business endeavor that would create a conflict between the Archdiocesan/Affiliate employee’s duty to the Archdiocese/Affiliate and the individual’s private interest.

The Archdiocese of Boston has a Code of Ministerial behavior that says, “Even the appearance of a conflict of interest can call integrity and professional conduct into question.” That is all we could find, and that does not relate to the Finance Council.

Do we have people on the Finance Council whose actions give the appearance of a conflict of interest?  Do we have people whose actions or affiliations clearly represent a conflict of interest?  Do we have individuals who use their position to secure personal gain or gain for other organizations they have some interest in?  Are there conflicts you know about that we have missed? Who is watching and reconciling these conflicts?  Is the fox guarding the chicken coop? Do these conflicts of interest serve the greater good of the Archdiocese of Boston, the clergy, pastors, parishes, donors, and advancing the saving ministry of Jesus Christ? Do they serve God or Mammon?

Best wishes to all for a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday, and safe travels if you are heading out of town.

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7 Responses to Finance Council Top Ethical Concerns: #3: Conflicts of Interest

  1. Appreciative Reader says:

    On Thanksgiving Day, let me just express my appreciation to the people responsible for this blog. Most other blogs I’ve read just opine (or pontificate) on news that has already been researched and reported by other sources. You’ve somehow managed to become a source of accurate, timely Catholic news that is in many ways more interesting and valuable toward advancing the works of the Church than what the Church itself publishes. It’s certainly vastly more valuable than what our Cardinal Archbishop publishes on his own blog.

    Today I offer my prayer of Thanksgiving and appreciation for your noble work and ministry to serve God and the Church. May God shower his many blessings upon you, and may God also open the minds and hearts of those in leadership positions that they heed the insightful words written here.

  2. Objective Observer says:

    Amen to that. BCI’s patience, objectivity, diligence and sources make it indispensable to Archdiocese of Boston Catholics. Thank you for your hard work, analysis and exceptionally readable writing. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide you, and may those who bear the canonical offices of this Archdiocese shape up or ship out.

  3. Kathy says:

    Thank you for providing us with this information. What I like about this blog is that is just reports what it’s research has uncovered without personally attacking anybody. While it is true that the blog does call people out for their actions it refrains from doing so in a mean spirited, condescending or flip manner. The blog also implores the Archdiocese to respond to it’s findings with the hope that the outcome will be beneficially to saving the true mission of the church. Please keep the blog professional and I will continue to follow it. God bless.

  4. [...] to read #1: Consultation on Performance or Removal of the Chancellor, and #2 Term of Service, and #3 Conflicts of Interest.   Today we continue [...]

  5. [...] reading #1: Consultation on Performance or Removal of the Chancellor, and #2 Term of Service, and #3 Conflicts of Interest. Today we continue [...]

  6. [...] reading #1: Consultation on Performance or Removal of the Chancellor, and #2 Term of Service, and #3 Conflicts of Interest. Then you may want to recap on #4: Compensation–Six Figure Salaries, and [...]

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