Published in the Gallup Independent, Nov. 18, 2014
Part three of a three-part series
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
ZUNI — In addition to allegations about the Rev. Ravi Kiran’s possible misuse of funds at St. Anthony’s Indian Mission, Kiran’s abrupt departure last month has raised a number of other unanswered questions.
They are questions that the Diocese of Gallup, the Pueblo of Zuni and Kiran have declined to answer.
Kiran, aka Ravi Kiran Dasari or Ravikiran Dasari, came from India to the Diocese of Gallup in the spring of 2009. In August 2012, Bishop James S. Wall assigned Kiran, his former superintendent of Catholic schools, to St. Anthony’s, a mission parish and school on the Pueblo of Zuni. Franciscan Friars had managed St. Anthony’s for nearly 90 years, before withdrawing from the mission in 2011.
Kiran’s renovation of the mission’s historical buildings has stirred controversy on the pueblo. During his two years at St. Anthony’s, Kiran oversaw numerous renovation projects to the buildings and mission grounds. Parishioners, almost all who have declined to speak publicly, are divided on Kiran’s actions.
Kiran’s supporters, who are pleased with the renovations, have said the upgrades were necessary because the mission was in disrepair. Kiran’s critics believe the renovations happened too quickly and were carried out with too little input from Zuni parishioners.
They also question how much the renovations cost.
One particularly divisive renovation project was the one on Kiran’s home. Kiran’s critics believe the rectory’s renovation was overdone to the point of excessive luxury, particularly since the mission is located on a Native American reservation with a high poverty rate.
Neither diocesan officials nor Kiran answered questions about the renovations.
And then there is the question of diocesan and tribal authorization. The diocese’s “Finance Directives and Finance Council Norms for Parishes and Organizations in the Diocese of Gallup” is a 2009 document that is posted on the Internet. According to that finance policy, “Any single expenditure, other than recurring monthly bills, that is greater than 10 percent of the annual Sunday collections must have written diocesan approval before the funds are committed.”
According to a financial report compiled after the end of fiscal year 2012, the annual Sunday collection amounts at St. Anthony’s were $16,346.55 for the fiscal year 2010, $15,239.47 for 2011, and $15,403.20 for 2012. Based on a small sampling of 14 church bulletins from 2007 to 2014, the weekly collection amounts under Kiran seemed to have declined in 2013 and 2014.
Therefore, using the highest figure of $16,346, Kiran would have needed approval from Gallup diocesan officials to spend more than $1,635 on any one parish project.
In addition, the diocese’s finance policy states the parish must have written approval from the bishop before any major repairs or new construction is begun, monthly reports must be sent to the diocese during the planning, fundraising, and implementation phases of the project, and all construction projects over $10,000 must include the “Catholic Mutual Addendum to Construction Contract” and must be forwarded to the diocese for review before signing.
It is unknown if Kiran followed these financial requirements and received the proper approval from the bishop because neither diocesan officials nor Kiran would answer any questions about the subject.
It is also unknown if Kiran received authorization from Pueblo of Zuni officials for the renovation projects – or if such tribal authorization was needed — because Zuni Gov. Arlen P. Quetawki Sr. also did not respond to media questions.
Finally, there are lingering questions about an allegation that was made against Kiran last year.
In the spring of 2013, an adolescent girl in Zuni reportedly made an allegation that Kiran touched her inappropriately. The Diocese of Gallup did not make that allegation public, but it did temporarily suspend Kiran for several months while a law enforcement investigation was conducted. However, during that time, Kiran was allowed to travel on fundraising mission appeals trips to Ohio and Pennsylvania.
A 2013 media inquiry to the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Pueblo of Zuni was answered by the Zuni governor. In letter dated Nov. 7, 2013, Quetawki stated: “The Zuni Police Department received a complaint, conducted a thorough investigation, determined that there is no substance to the allegations, and closed the investigation. We were assisted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI in conducting the investigation.”
Officials with the Diocese of Gallup and the Pueblo of Zuni were asked earlier this month if that allegation against Kiran was still considered to have no substance. Neither set of officials responded.
In a related issue, diocesan officials and Kiran also did not answer questions about reports that Kiran did not advertise information pertaining to the diocese’s bankruptcy case as he was required.
According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court order of April 11, all Gallup parishes were required to advertise information about the diocese’s bar date deadline for confidential claims regarding allegations of clergy sex abuse. Kiran reportedly did not post or publish that court ordered information at St. Anthony Indian Mission.
In addition, the diocese also did not respond to questions about whether Kiran had ever submitted to a criminal background check in India or the United States before being allowed to work in the Gallup Diocese. A question about whether foreign priests are required to submit to criminal background checks before working in the Gallup Diocese also was not answered.