Ethicspoint Disappoints: Terry Donilon Complaint

BCI has been shaking our head in dismay as the Boston Archdiocese has literally flapped in the proverbial “public relations wind” over the situation at St. Cecilia Church in Boston in recent weeks. We have seen the newspaper articles and have been copied directly or blind cc:ed on emails that show the true colors on exactly how badly the PR team for the archdiocese has bungled communications about this situation and continues to bungle it.

Just as BCI was considering various angles for our coverage of that fiasco, we received the email below from a reader about another fiasco–how their Ethicspoint whistleblower complaint regarding the conflict of interest around the hiring of Terry Donilon has been ignored for nearly the past 3 months.

As long-time readers may recall, BCI covered the conflict of interest around the hiring of Terry Donilon by Ann Carter of Rasky Baerlein nearly a year ago, on July 19, 2010 in our post, Conflicts of Interest: Part I, and in our post of October 19, 2010, Sham Search: Terry Donilon.

Nothing has happened since then, except that the quality of public communications from 66 Brooks Drive seems to BCI and our readers to have gotten worse, with more flapping in the wind and deception coming from 66 Brooks. This is exemplified by the deception over the Daughters of St. Paul lawsuit and intervention by the Cardinal, as well as the deception  and confusing messages over the latest flap at St. Cecilia Church in Boston.

What also has happened since then is that the archdicoese finally implemented an anonymous whistleblower process–years after auditors recommended it–so employees can file claims (using the 3rd-party Ethicspoint software system) over matters of corruption like financial wrongdoing, misuse of funds, ethical breaches, conflicts of interest, workplace harrassment, etc.  They are supposed to be investigated, addressed and acted upon, with a response coming back to the person who filed the claim.

Unfortunately, the very concerns BCI raised beforehand about implementation of such a process in the Boston Archdiocese have happened. It is not a problem with the Ethicspoint technology–it is a combination of the people and process in the archdiocese which is broken. Truly broken.  As BCI has said before, the Boston archdiocesan anti-corruption initiative is itself corrupted.

Below you will see the actual report submitted by an archdiocesan employee on April 9, 2011 that they emailed us a few days ago. We were honored to see how some of what BCI previously reported made its way into the complaint. But BCI was troubled to hear the employee has received no response other than an acknowledgement of their complaint in nearly 3 months.  Here is their report/complaint, with slight edits by BCI.

The organization does not have any questions or comments at this time.
Report Submission Date

Reported Company/Branch

Location Former chancery
City/State/Zip brighton, ma, u.s.

Violation Information
Issue Type
Conflict of Interest
Please identify the person(s) engaged in this behavior:
Sean O’Malley – Cardinal
Bryan Hehir – Secretary for Social Services
Jim McDonough – Chancellor
Do you suspect or know that a supervisor or management is involved?
If yes, then who?
Cardinal O’Malley
Is management aware of this problem?
What is the general nature of this matter?
Conflict of interest–A vendor paid by the archdiocese hired a key lay employee who has since then been responsible for determining the compensation and level of engagement of that vendor who hired the employee.
Please provide the specific or approximate time this incident occurred:
April 2005
How long do you think this problem has been going on?
More than a year
How did you become aware of this violation?
I observed it
Please identify any persons who have attempted to conceal this problem and the steps they took to conceal it:
Fr. Hehir, Cardinal O’Malley, and Chancellor mcDonough have all ignored it.
In late 2004, early 2005 a search was undertaken to find a new secretary for communications. Ann Carter, of Rasky Baerlein, led the search effort.The position would determine when she was retained, how often and for how many hours she was retained, what she and her firm would be paid, and whether they would be retained in the future.This is the first conflict of interest, apparently approved by Fr. Hehir. Regardless of the competency level of the vendor, how can you have a paid vendor hire the person who will then determine the firm’s pay and future level of engagement with there not being an inherent conflict of interest?She was quoted in the Boston Globe on April 15, 2005 in their announcement of Donilon’s appointment saying, “Terry Donilon is an experienced communicator who loves the church.” The person quoted in such announcements is usually the person who led the search, but even if she did not “lead” the search, she play the key role in it.Terry–who was leaving Shaws Supermarkets or was already gone–had an inside connection for the job. Ann Carter is CEO of Rasky Baerlein, where the founder and Chairman is Larry Rasky, who has known the Donilon family from his political work starting with the Joe Biden campaign back in 1988. Here’s a piece from the Boston Globe giving the
history. two older brothers and a sister-in-law of archdiocesan spokesman Terrence C. Donilon (right) are all expected to land high-ranking posts in the Obama administration. Terry is the youngest of four Donilon siblings; his brother Mike has been named counselor to the vice president, his brother Tom is expected to become deputy national security adviser, and Tom’s wife, Cathy Russell, has been named chief of staff to Biden’s wife Jill. Interestingly, the Donilons are not the cardinal’s only connection to Biden — the archdiocese retains as public relations consultants the firm of Rasky Baerlein, headed by Larry Rasky, who served as Biden’s campaign spokesman in 2007 and in 1988. (Biden will be the first Catholic vice president, but is also viewed warily by some bishops because he, like Obama, supports abortion rights.)In Politico Friday, Alexander Burns wrote about Tom and Mike Donilon and Cathy Russell. An excerpt:

“How has this trio ended up so close to the center of an administration promising an infusion of new blood? There are a number of reasons, but the most important is
Joe Biden. ‘Cathy goes back 20 years with Joe Biden, and Mike goes back even longer on campaigns; Tom goes back more than 20 years,’ said a friend of the
Donilon family who asked not to be named. ‘They stayed very close over the years with the Bidens, so that’s part of it.’ In a news release, the transition team
noted that Mike Donilon had advised the Delaware senator since the early 1980s, and both Tom Donilon and Cathy Russell worked on Biden’s 1988 presidential

Resumes of far superior candidates interested in the job never made it to the full search committee. I believe, though am not 100% sure of this, that a well-qualified woman who worked in PR at [edited by BCI] who was also a parish council member at her local parish applied, but could not even got an interview. (Check the resumes around the time when they hired a #2, Kevin Shea, and you will see that the woman did get interviewed then, after someone close to the Archbishop pulled her resume from the dust-bin). Anyone familiar with Terry’s work knows that he can’t spell and his grammar is also bad. Every press release or statement requires the attention and spin of Fr. Bryan Hehir and Ann Carter.

So, to summarize, Ann Carter worked with Larry Rasky, who knew the Donilon brothers from politics. Donilon brother, Terry, was looking for a job after doing PR for Shaws Supermarkets, and Ann Carter was leading the search for the Communications role at the archdiocese at the same time. Other more experienced superior candidates were just never considered.

But now there is the conflict of interest that for the past 5 years, Terry determines the engagement level with a past obligation hanging over him that Ann Carter and
Rasky were responsible for his being hired. On top of that you have Ann Carter also having served on the search committee for Chancellor Jim McDonough,  who also has responsibility over the budget and level of funding available for the PR expenses. Notwithstanding the inherent conflict of interest of having  Ann Carter, CEO of the PR vendor paid by the archdiocese on the search committee for the chancellor, Ms. Carter was a Board member at Abington Bank when Jim  McDonough was CEO of the bank and Ms. Carter made more than $400K in profit from her Abington Bank stock. Ms. Carter joined the Abington Bank board in 2002 for a two-year term, and her term was extended to 2006 by a shareholder vote in July 2003. According to Abington Bank’s July 2003 annual shareholder meeting financial disclosure, Carter held 12,400 shares of stock (or .32% of the shares outstanding). When Abington Bank sold to Seacoast in June of 2004 for $139.4 million, Ms. Carter’s shares were worth .32% of $139 million or about $450,000.

In summary, Ann Carter was on the search committee that selected communications secretary, Terry Donilon, who has managed her services and compensation for the past 6 years. In late 2004-mid 2005, Ms Carter made a substantial amount of money on the sale of Abington Bank by virtue of Jim McDonough having her serve on the Board, and then in December of 2005, Ms Carter was put on the Archdiocesan search committee and played a key role in hiring Jim McDonough as Chancellor. His appointment was announced on June 5, 2006. Both of these cabinet officials have decision-making authority over how much Carter (the person who helped select them) would be paid for work by the archdiocese and has been paid. Staff members at the archdiocese objected to this conflict of interest, but were overruled, I believe by Secretary for Healthcare and Social Services, Fr. Bryan Hehir.

How can it be expected that Terry Donilon or Chancellor McDonough can make independent decisions about whether to continue engagement of Rasky Baerlein or whether the archdiocese is getting reasonable value for the expenses when both of them are beholden to Ann Carter for their jobs in hiring processes that represent a very clear conflict of interest? Why were and are these conflicts of interest permitted and allowed to continue? It seems to me and other employees that the only way this problem can be reasonably solved is for Rasky Baerlein to be replaced by a different PR agency.

Follow-Up Questions/Comments
Apr 12, 2011, 7:10 AM
Comment: Thank you for filing this report. We have received it and are beginning our review. Please continue to follow up on a weekly basis.

Apr 25, 2011, 3:37 PM
Reply: Hello, it’s been several weeks since I submitted this report. Are you still working on it?

May 03, 2011, 9:34 AM
Comment: We continue to review this information and are still in the process of conducting interviews.

May 10, 2011, 6:43 AM
Reply: OK. While you are interviewing people, you may want to speak with Kevin Shea, now at Boston College, who served in the RCAB communications office under Terry Donilon for a year. He had previously worked in PR for the Boston Red Sox before the RCAB. I believe he may have applied for the job when Ann Carter ran the search and was rejected in favor of Terry Donilon, even though Kevin is and was objectively more competent and articulate.

The other information I provided I am rather certain of, but the information about Kevin applying for the job when Ann ran the search I am not certain of. A candid conversation with Kevin would no doubt reveal that Terry is not [edited by BCI] for the job.

Follow-Up Notes
Jun 10, 2011, 7:04 AM
It’s now been two months since I submitted this report. Nothing seems to have happened. Can I ask who specifically–by name–is responsible for investigating this matter and what they have now concluded after 2 months?


BCI hates to be publicizing confidential whistleblower complaints like this. However, if the archdiocese is going to implement a program and process and then ignore it, BCI feels it is appropriate for us to publish claims, in the interest of helping the archdiocese do a better job in the future.

BCI sees a multitude of problems here. We raised the conflict of interest nearly a year ago and nothing happened.  We reminded the archdiocese about the recommendation by auditors for an anonymous whistleblower policy nearly a year ago, and as exemplified by this employee experience, the implementation has exactly the flaws we raised as potential concerns. The archdiocese expended considerable resources to implement an anti-corruption whistleblower policy and process (which went live in March), and then they have not abided by their own Code of Conduct policy and whistleblower process.

Meanwhile, back at 66 Brooks Drive, where the Secretary for Communications and Public Affairs had costs of $288,824 in 2010 and the Communications and Public Affairs budget for 2011 is $573,000 (including Mass Catholic Conference), PR for the archdiocese appears to be a disaster. One blogger said, “It’s like they’re consulting with former Rep. Anthony Weiner for expertise on PR, honesty, and damage control.”

The excellent Pastoral Letter on Evanglization by Cardinal O’Malley was overshadowed by the fiasco at St. Cecilia and bungled communications around it.  Weeks and months worth of public statements this year reveal the archdiocese struggles to communicate with consistency, clarity and at times complete truthfulness.

In the interest of the greater good of the Catholic Church in Boston, BCI recommends that the new Vicar General consider ways to fix the broken, corrupted anti-corruption program, review and address the conflict of interest raised above (and other grave conflicts of interest raised by BCI), and also do something to dramatically improve the clarity, consistency and truthfulness of public relations and communications for the archdiocese.

What do you think?  (NOTE: Please focus any comments on the main topic of this post–namely the conflict of interest, corrupted anti-corruption program, and problems in PR/communications NOT the issues specifically at St. Cecilia Church, which need their own separate forum outside of the main focus of BCI for airing and discussing. Some people who have been itching to comment further on that latter topic may see this post as their opening, but please do BCI a favor and do not go there, otherwise we will have to moderate those comments).

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and blessed July 4 weekend!

6 Responses to Ethicspoint Disappoints: Terry Donilon Complaint

  1. A priest says:

    Terry Donilon, Cardinal Sean and the archdiocese have embarrassed themselves and the Catholic Church by the incompetent way this whole St. Cecilia’s situation has been handled. Terry’s $166K salary would be better spent in other ways with someone else who understands the Catholic Church in that role, and I think a lot of people are starting to conclude the time’s arrived for both Terry and Rasky Baerlein to move on. Why must we wait 3 months until the new Vicar General arrives to make such a clearly obvious change?

  2. Chris says:

    Yes, the Rainbow Ministry Mess at St. Cecilia’s is a totally unforced error. They should have taken the media hit with a cancellation and moved on. I wouldn’t bet on the new Vicar General coming in and cleaning up everything/anything at once, however. I haven’t seen anything that shows he has a track record as a reformer (although a canon law degree at least means he’s aware that there ARE rules).

  3. Anne Shea says:

    Having an Ethicspoint tool can only be as productive and useful in addressing ethical issues with regard to an employer as is the employer committed to investigation and action on complaints. Revelations of its shortcomings and serious conflicts of interest to an institution that is not interested in addressing them will not be acted upon.

    I work at an institution that DOES take the complaints or issues raised on its Ethicspoint site seriously. There is a standing “board” that oversees the review of any complaint and its thorough investigation. Investigation is followed by appropriate action. The complainant is apprised of the progress of the investigation within 2 weeks and when there is a determination on the validity of the complaint, the complainant is notified anonymously through the Ethicspoint site.

    I have been involved with the investigation of several complaints as well as in the effectuating of action to address employees who have been found to have had conflicts of interest or been determined to have broken the law or the ethical standards of our institution.

    It appears that the Ethicspoint site for the RCAB was instituted as a PR gimmick to “prove” the RCAB’s commitment to hearing and acting upon conflicts of interest and other ethical breaches. Sadly, the mere gathering of reports does not fulfill that commitment. Only the investigation of reported improprieties and action to address proven improprieties does so.

  4. Carolyn says:

    After the dust settled and Terry’s foot faults were a regular occurrence, I learned that a woman I knew through a faith-based connection applied for the opening when Terry was hired. She was a longtime manager of communications for a world class university located along the banks of the Charles River. She was also on her parish council in a near suburb of Boston, and known to be above reproach in all respects. A real champion in the p.r. arena and solid Catholic in her home court. Her resume never made it to Ann Carter’s interview pile. As a matter of fact, she never even got a call to tell her she didn’t make it.

    A few months later when I saw a priest secretary of the cardinal’s at an event at the Cathedral, he mused that it was too bad no women had applied for the post, and he thought that was strange in this day and age.

    Game – set – match to Ann Carter, and her trainers, Jack Connors and the DNC.

  5. […] recently sent to us by a reader.  As compared to the one we published last Friday about the conflict of interest in the hiring and employment of Terry Donilon, at least this one got a response with an explanation, albeit one which was still somewhat […]

  6. […] Ethicspoint Disappoints, Terry Donilon Complaint – Boston Catholic Insider […]

%d bloggers like this: