Catholic Diocese Hit with Lawsuit

By Marla A. Goldberg
The Republican [Springfield MA]
September 2, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - A former secretary of the All Saints Parish in Agawam, Ann Jackobek, is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield for wrongful termination and defamation, maintaining that she was fired after accusing the Rev. Steven Amo of misappropriating parish funds.

A spokesman for the diocese, Mark E. Dupont, said a thorough review of parish finances was conducted by diocesan auditors, and "nothing was found which substantiated her (Jackobek's) allegations."

Amo said he is hurt by Jackobeck's claims. "Personally, I'm very upset by the allegations," he said. Amo said that since May, the parish has been using plastic tamper-resistant collection bags. Once sealed, the bags can't be opened without destroying them. "This is to protect everyone," Amo said.

Amo has not been charged with any crimes.

Dupont stated there was no relation between Jackobek's job being eliminated and her allegations, adding that a fiscal review leading to Jackobek's termination began long before she made accusations against Amo.

All Saints Parish has about 800 families registered.

Jackobek filed the lawsuit in Hampden Superior Court last month, stating that in 2002, when Amo became parish administrator, she began noticing discrepancies between money donated and the amount deposited into the parish bank account. The lawsuit doesn't name any specific sums.

Jackobek stated that she reported the discrepancies to the chairman of the Parish Finance Council, and after an informal investigation, the chairman "asked Father Amo to refrain from tampering with the donation envelopes," the lawsuit states.

Jackobek stated that she saw Amo shredding donation envelopes before the amounts could be recorded, and was concerned that "Father Amo appeared to be using the Parish's credit card to pay for personal expenses."

In early April, according to court documents, Jackobek reported her observations to John Shuman, head of financial affairs for the diocese, and to controller William LaBroad. Jackobek also delivered a letter to the Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell.

In a letter to the bishop dated April 13, Jackobek mentioned that since Amo arrived, he had "made many remarks about my capability of (sic) the job." Jackobek also wrote that Amo said she was unable to keep up with secretarial duties because she was spending too much time with bills and payroll.

April 19, within days of Jackobek's complaint, Amo took away Jackobek's duties to handle payroll and accounts payable, according to the lawsuit. April 22, Dorothy Orr, head of human resources, asked Jackobek to resign, and Jackobek was terminated when she refused to quit, the lawsuit states.

Diocesean lawyer John Egan said Tuesday that the diocese believes there was nothing improper about Jackobek's firing. "Obviously, we think the termination was unfortunate, but appropriate," he said. In court filings, the diocese has argued that Jackobek has presented no claim on which relief can be granted.

Dupont said the diocese "takes these claims of misappropriation very seriously, as evidenced by the Holyoke Catholic situation. The misappropriation of funds there was found by our auditors," he said.


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