More Deception from Chancellor Jim McDonough

Our email has been pretty well over-flowing regarding the news of Tuesday, so we apologize for the slow response.  Frankly, we have so many more things to say about it, we could go on for days.  For now, just a few words about the deception by the Chancellor in his announcement message.

Canon. 494 §1. says that “In every diocese, after having heard the college of consultors and the Finance council, the bishop is to appoint a Finance officer who is truly expert in Financial affairs and absolutely distinguished for honesty.”

What happens if the Finance Officer does not distinguish himself for honesty, or, hypothetically speaking, distinguishes themself for deception?

We already have the “sham search” that hired Kathleen Driscoll, orchestrated by Jack Connors and Jim McDonough, with McDonough having been already planning to bring Driscoll over to the Pastoral Center as early as the summer of 2009.  Most recently, we have the deceptive comments to the Boston Globe by the Chancellor that no one in the Pastoral Center had gotten raises for the past 4 years–when in reality, a lot of people got cost of living or other increases in 2007-2008 and the proof is not only public information but we also have dozens of examples we cannot share publicly. Now there is his latest message about the hiring of his new Executive Director of everything the Chancellor does not want to manage himself or does not trust his existing 6-figure-salaried staff to manage.

Here are some highlights of his message, and our responses below it:

Jim McDonough wrote: “In this position, John will provide Central Ministries with a valuable skill set that will enable stronger internal project management and help improve communication and coordination among our various staffs. John brings to this position a breadth of experience that will be of significant assistance to the Archdiocese as we continue the effort to rebuild and strengthen our local Church for the benefit of our 1.8 million Catholics. A graduate of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., John has served as Chief Financial Officer of the White House during the Administration of President George W. Bush and as Chief Financial Officer of the US House of Representatives.

BCI: We know he had those job titles, but what were the results?  The George W. Bush administration was not exactly known for reduced spending and balanced budgets at a congressional level.  (No partisanship here–the Obama administration is also not known for reduced spending and balanced budgets).So, besides holding a fancy title, what did he actually do and accomplish in those jobs?

Jim McDonough wrote: He previously served as an Associate Dean at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The addition of John as Executive Director of Finance and Operations is intended to provide improved management and oversight in these critical areas.  It also acknowledges the wide scope of the Administration and Finance Secretariat and provides the necessary management depth to effectively meet the diverse and complex needs of our parishes, schools and ministries.”

BCI: Why do we need to hire someone else for around $200K/year to “acknowledge the wide scope of the Administration and Finance Secretariat?”  Have we not sufficiently acknowledged that by paying the Chancellor $250K/year and him and his combined staff more than $1M a year?  What does it say about the current Chancellor that in his nearly 5 years on the job, he has not brought himself, developed, or hired the “necessary management depth” to manage basically the same needs of our (more poorly attended) parishes, (fewer) schools, and (underfunded, pared-back) ministries we had when he arrived in 2006?

Why was this position never posted or advertised? Since it was never posted or advertised, how did Stroub find out about it (e.g. which insider did he know who brought him in)?

What did Mr. Stroub major in at Catholic University?  Why was some prior leadership or service to the Catholic Church not required for such a senior role? (Was he not even a lector or usher somewhere in Scranton, PA or DC?)

Why were Mr. Stroub’s most recent 4 years as Vice President of Human Resources (not finance and not operations) for a company that ships and warehouses beverages, candy, and other consumer products conveniently not even mentioned in the announcement?  To his credit, at his previous employer, Kane is Able, he talked in an article about how he dramatically reduced employee turnover amongst the truck-drivers who operate the company’s “fleet of 200 tractors and 800 trailers.”  (And the relevance of that experience with truck-drivers to the archdiocese would be…??)  His hiring philosophy was described in this article as, “attitude first and aptitude second. “Instead of focusing on the number of years they have spent operating a particular piece of machinery,” he explains, “[we look] for candidates who [demonstrate] a passion for customer service. Essentially, we hire for attitude and train for skill.”

Looking for a positive attitude for machinery operators is fine, but last time we checked, aptitude–namely, a talent, capability, readiness or quickness in learning; intelligence–was generally an innate personal characteristic that does not change much after someone shows up at the office.  Great–so does this mean we will hire more people like we already have hired in the past 5 years who know nothing about the Catholic Church or about their area of expertise?  Then after people who know nothing about the Church but are enthusiastic about a high-paid job are put on the dole using donor funds, we will just teach them about the Church and their functional area?  And over time, they will develop aptitude?

BCI critics will say we are attacking the guy before he has even started and should give him a chance.  Nothing personal against John–maybe he will be good and will put in-place a discipline for goal-setting–and the fact that we can find almost nothing about him via research online is a non-issue, he has no demonstrated service to the Catholic Church in the announcement, and the manner in which he has been hired and introduced is just terrible.  Maybe that hiring perspective just applies to blue-collar workers in the shipping and warehousing space, and it will be different here in the archdiocese.  We do not know. But when the hiring process is flawed or suspicious and the announcement withholds basic information, it is grounds for concern.

Jim McDonough wrote: “The Cardinal, Fr. Erikson and I are keenly aware of the need to do more with less. We recognize that everyone has taken on more and we are gratified by your tremendous work ethic and devotion to serving Christ and the Church. As Chancellor, I have endeavored to lead by reducing the most staff so that other ministries would be spared. Since I arrived at the Archdiocese, the staff headcount of my Secretariat has been reduced by 23%, declining from 91 to 70 persons.

BCI: This is where the real deception occurs.  What is the actual reduction in cost?  As “Priests for Transparency” asked, “How much have total salaries INCREASED in his Secretariat over the same time period?  Before and after consultants?”  How many of those “reductions” came about not because the position was eliminated, but rather because the position was simply moved from the Chancellor’s headcount to another departmental headcount?  Does the archivist count, who now reports into the Vicar General?  Does Carol Gustavson count, because her salary is paid by Benefits Trust?  What about the minor detail he did not mention about how the administration secretariat was spared in the previous 2 rounds of cuts before he joined, so some of his cuts are “just playing catch up”, as PFT noted yesterday?

How are some of the Chancellor’s ill-conceived and ill-thought-through reductions hurting the bottom line for every parishioner and pastor in the Archdiocese and resulting in hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in excessive costs?  How is the “reduced staff” doing managing the $5.5M+ spent over recent years on Lawson Software, consulting services, and hosting along?  How did getting rid a couple of the property management people work out?  How does saving money from those salaries–and now having a person responsible for real estate and properties who was a former loan officer and knows nothing about property management–help the archdiocese, when the current less qualified crew participated in the mismanagement of the St. Cecilia (Boston) renovation project?  What was the starting vs final price-tag–was it $14M (which the parish had in the bank) and is now ballooning to more like $20M by the time all work is done?  Why does the parish now need to take out a loan from the archdiocese and figure out how to mount a capital campaign to pay for some $6M of the renovation cost AFTER the majority of the project work has been completed?  Usually, the parish raises money BEFORE the project is launched, not after.  Whose oversight led to that situation?  And, um, how is that $50K new roof doing at St. Mary’s in Plymouth–you know, the one that should have been good for at least 15+ years but is now leaking? Has anyone been able to find the paperwork for the job, or the contractor yet?

Beyond that, in this time of huge heating bills for parishes and schools, exactly who on the Chancellor’s team is competent and qualified to help parishes and schools figure out the efficiency of their decades-old heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems, and whether there is an ROI benefit to upgrading those systems?  How much money is being poured down the proverbial “heating oil drain”?

How many hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in donor funds are being wasted because of mismanagement by the Chancellor and his team due to him letting qualified people go (so he can either claim he reduced head-count or bring-in his own cronies), hiring  people not qualified to preside over critical functions, and not finding a way to replace critical functions with competent in-house or outsourced resources?

And as PFT commented said, “Why does only McDonough get to reorganize by INCREASING staff/headcount? The Schools Office continually said that the 3 new associate superintendent positions came from 5 positions that were eliminated. Of course he’ll say that Gustavson is now on a different payroll – but that’s garbage.”

Jim McDonough wrote: Throughout this time we have directed available resources to serve our parishes. John’s position, and the experience and love for Christ and the Catholic Faith he brings to us, is intended to continue to build on that goal as a commitment to our culture of support to parishes, schools and ministries.”

BCI: Yeah, whatever resources were available after the Chancellor and the administration spent $4+M on six-figure salaries and the legal department.  Sorry, which goal is that John coming on-board is building on?  Is that the goal of doing more with less?  Wording about “love of Christ” sounds vaguely familiar as well.  Hmm, where did we hear that before?  Seems that when Terry Donilon was hired, we were told, “Terry Donilon is an experienced communicator who loves the church.”  If John Stroub loves Christ and the Catholic Faith, how come service to the Church is nowhere in his biography up to now?

How do we justify yet another six-figure salary in finance and administration, while the lay pension plan has been frozen and both the lay and clergy retirement funds remain underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars?  What exactly is being done to re-fund those and fulfill the legal, moral, and canonical responsibilities and commitments to 10,000+ people?  The $1M raised at the Priest Appreciation Dinner was nice, but where will the couple hundred million dollars come from needed to shore up both funds?

Lastly, unstated in the communication was anything about what the $250K/year Chancellor will be doing, now that he has fewer direct reports.  Commenter “Carolyn” asked: “So with only three employees reporting directly to McDonough, and with no direct responsibilities of his own, what does he do?  How does he while away the time?  Besides sitting in meetings spinning the wheel on his Blackberry, what does he do?  Maybe he could take up knitting.”

When the Chancellor joined the archdiocese in June of 2006, he said in the Boston Business Journal, he was “very blessed and didn ‘t need a job.”

That is good to hear, since under Canon Law, some might say it appears that the behaviors demonstrated by James McDonough disqualify him from holding the job of chief Finance Officer.

What do you think?  If Jim McDonough doesn’t need a job, should he take up knitting?  Or better still, maybe work on his golf game?

5 Responses to More Deception from Chancellor Jim McDonough

  1. anna says:

    Inept and inexperienced people with attitude eh? This rounds out the philosophy at 66 Brooks Drive quite nicely.

    Anyone else see the elephant in the room?

    Even the folks at the Chancery wouldn’t touch the pool of candidates coming out of the lay masters program at St. John’s. The resumes of the “two men with beards and a bird” graduates pale in comparison to supermarket, banking and trucking CVs who left the Church or think getting married outside of the Sacrament of Marriage in your living room is loving the Lord or practicing Catholicism.

    I would like to see the payroll numbers as opposed to the body count. Has anyone contacted the former Shaw’s guy to see if they will be transparent about the before and after numbers?

  2. Another former employee says:

    When Jim McDonough came to the Archdicoese in 2006, one of the first things he said was that employees had too much time off and did not work enough hours. He increased everyone’s work week and got rid of having holy days off. This from a man that worked 4 days a week almost from the beginning because he went to Florida for long weekends. He did not work extra hours during those 4 days to make up for the short week. When David Smith was Chancellor he routinely worked over 50 hours a week. Jim does not have David’s work ethic.

  3. Objective Observer says:

    Jim McDonough’s canonical term is up in May. No one has the stomach to re-up him. He has for the most part completed his water bearing for Jack Connors, and Jack has a long history of letting people go away with some nice pat on the wallet when their worth to him has been spent.

    The Very Reverend Bryan Hehir has his work cut out for him elsewhere, now that Jack is happy. You can sort of picture his “aw shucks” manner as he scratches his head and notches the Caritas and BC deals on his carefully kept “you owe me” ledger. Our uber Democratic party man knows it’s time for him to get the “people’s seat” back for the dems, and figure out how to get Chris Dodd’s seat locked up by a friendly face. Nothing BH likes better than DNC opportunity and strategy sessions, so 2011 will likely keep him busy outside Boston.

    Meanwhile, very good priests ordained since 2000 and a good-size group of pastors of higher rank have begun to talk about naval maneuvers, i.e., turning the Queen Mary. These priests get up in the morning, say their prayers and get to work. Most of them have learned, one way or the other, that the handful of truly helpful people at #66 will continue to get the work done, and the rest will just inhale large salaries and indoor parking places. Malingering is about to become terribly out of favor.

    Jim McDonough’s reign of obeisance to Jack and Bryan is sputtering audibly. Jack and Bryan have their own challenges in 2011 that make #66 look like yesterday’s news.

    For the rest of us, the hard work is about to begin in earnest. How will the next chancellor be chosen? Who will be in the room when the real decision is made? And what will be the points of discussion? The conversation has to be shaped by those with standing to do so, and the forum has to be BCI.

    His Eminence Sean Patrick should book even more travel than usual in 2011 as he is not a fan of confrontation (or even conversation for that matter). Those who are willing to put in the time to research appropriate material need to step up. BCI is the ideal place to establish the chart room to turn the Queen Mary.

    All hands on deck!

  4. Joe Average Catholic says:

    If I read this correctly, $20 million is being spent to renovate one church, and the cost is over-running by $6 million over the original plan, 40%–with the Chancellor’s team’s oversight. IMHO, based on what BCI has reported, we have a Finance officer who is neither truly expert in Financial affairs, nor distinguished for honesty. For his benefit and the archdiocese’s benefit, I think it would be good for him to spend a lot more time with family and working on his golf handicap after his term expires.

  5. from the pews says:

    One must conclude there has been precious little oversight from the Archdiocese regarding the renovation at St. Cecilia Parish (Boston). With a pastor who openly proclaims he’s not a “rules and regs kind of guy” and who plays fast and loose with the Sacramental Rites of the Church as well as with Church doctrine, it is of no surprise there exists the inexplicable situation in which fund raising has been long delayed hoping to recoup millions in cost overruns. Where is there ANY oversight?

    Meanwhile, St. Cecilia’s annual operating budget is reported to be over $250K in the RED at the end of FYE 2011! This is as reported on their very own website:

    Yet the pastor takes frequent and extravagant vacations to tropical Islands and Europe.

    I for one, am sick of average parishioners bearing the financial burdens of born of impropriety and ineptitude. We who sit in the pews are more than happy to give our hard earned money and precious time to further the wonderful ministries of the Church. However, it appears that no one at the Archdiocese asked simple questions in a timely fashion—questions rooted in everyday common sense: Why was no money raised before the project began? Why is the project now suddenly millions of dollars over budget?

    No one is made accountable, yet it is the faithful parishioners who are saddled with millions in debt.

    With the history of sex abuse scandals, the Church does not need to shoot itself in the foot with more financial impropriety and incompetence. It pains those of us who try to stay faithful to the Church and faithful to our local parishes, where our faith truly takes root.

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