“SNAP announces director named in lawsuit has resigned” & related articles

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Posted:Jan 25 2017 06:43AM CST

Updated:Jan 25 2017 06:43AM CST

– A longtime leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group that has for decades publicized allegations of sexual abuse by priests, left the organization at the end of 2016, according to a statement issued Tuesday by SNAP’s chairman.

The announcement that David Clohessy no longer is SNAP’s national director comes just days after a former SNAP staffer filed a lawsuit in Cook County, claiming the Chicago-based organization steered clergy sex abuse victims to lawyers who in turn sued the Catholic Church and then donated large sums back to SNAP, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

In the lawsuit, former SNAP fundraiser Gretchen Rachel Hammond claims she saw emails from Clohessy to “prominent” lawyers in several states coordinating press events and in at least one case directly asking when SNAP could expect a donation after referring a victim. Hammond said she was fired from her job as development director for SNAP after she expressed qualms about the group’s ties to lawyers, who provided donations that in most years accounted for 50 to 80 percent of the group’s funding.

Clohessy “voluntarily resigned” from SNAP “effective Dec. 31,” according to a two-paragraph email from SNAP Board Chairwoman Mary Ellen Kruger. According to his profile on the SNAP website, Clohessy had served as the group’s national director since 1991.

“We are eternally grateful for David’s dedication to SNAP and its mission over the past almost thirty years,” Kruger wrote.

“His passion, his voice, and his kindness have touched us all. We will miss David and we wish him much happiness. David will always be a friend and an inspiration to SNAP and its many dedicated and hardworking volunteers.”

Clohessy, who lives in St. Louis, did not immediately return calls from the Sun-Times on Tuesday. Neither did SNAP President Barbara Blaine nor spokeswoman Barbara Dorris.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday, Clohessy said he had quit SNAP five weeks ago and that the lawsuit had nothing to do with his decision to leave.

“I’m just ready for something different,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “It was almost 30 years. I’ve read a lot about nonprofits and organizational development. It’s clear that some new blood helps.”

Tax records indicate Clohessy was one of two full-time SNAP employees, and was paid around $86,000 for his duties as national director. Kruger’s statement did not indicate whether Clohessy also had resigned from his seat on the group’s board of directors.

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Victims advocacy group announces leader’s resignation in wake of lawsuit

Chicago Tribune

24 January 2017

Manya Brachear Pashman Contact Reporter    Chicago Tribune

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests announced Tuesday that its longtime national director, accused by a former SNAP employee of referring potential clients to attorneys in return for financial kickbacks to the group, resigned at the end of last year.

The announcement that David Clohessy, of St. Louis, left the Chicago-based organization comes a week after he and other leaders were named in a lawsuit filed by a former employee who said she was fired shortly after asking superiors whether SNAP was referring victims to attorneys in exchange for donations to the organization.

In addition to Clohessy, defendants named in the lawsuit are the organization itself, Barbara Blaine, its founder and president, and Barbara Dorris, outreach director. Dorris could not be reached for comment.

In a statement sent to volunteers Tuesday morning, Mary Ellen Kruger, the chairwoman of the board, thanked Clohessy for his nearly 30 years of service to the organization.

“His passion, his voice and his kindness have touched us all,” Kruger said. “We will miss David, and we wish him much happiness. David will always be a friend and an inspiration to SNAP and its many dedicated and hardworking volunteers.”

In an interview Tuesday, Clohessy said he remains on the organization’s board of directors for the time being. But his resignation, which he said he told SNAP’s board about in October, is the best choice for him and the organization.

“It’s healthy for nonprofits to get fresh blood and new perspectives,” said Clohessy, who said he was stunned by the lawsuit and its allegations.

According to the suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Gretchen Rachel Hammond worked as a director of development from July 2011 until she said she was fired in February 2013. She grew suspicious when she was not permitted to participate in an internal audit of SNAP by an accounting firm and was barred from attending programs to help generate material for grant proposals, the suit said.

She also was given access to a list of lawyers who regularly donated to SNAP but was told to never tell anyone that lawyers donate to the organization, according to the lawsuit. It was when Clohessy accidentally copied her on an email to an attorney, asking when SNAP could expect the next donation, that Hammond began to ask questions and the workplace climate dramatically changed, she alleged in the lawsuit.

Clohessy said he did not recall, but doubts such an email exchange would take place.

“I send hundreds of emails, and I can’t imagine writing that one,” he said.

Hammond said she was fired two days after a volunteer came to Hammond’s apartment to collect a flash drive she used to work from home. She did not disclose that she had copied it, the lawsuit said.

mbrachear@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @TribSeeker

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SNAP announces director named in lawsuit has resigned

Chicago Sun Times

24 January 2017

David Clohessy, former national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, left the group at the end of 2016. | Sun-Times file photo

David Clohessy, former national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, left the group at the end of 2016. | Sun-Times file photo

A longtime leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group that has for decades publicized allegations of sexual abuse by priests, left the organization at the end of 2016, according to a statement issued Tuesday by SNAP’s chairman.

The announcement that David Clohessy no longer is SNAP’s national director comes just days after a former SNAP staffer filed a lawsuit in Cook County, claiming the Chicago-based organization steered clergy sex abuse victims to lawyers who in turn sued the Catholic Church and then donated large sums back to SNAP.

In the lawsuit, former SNAP fundraiser Gretchen Rachel Hammond claims she saw emails from Clohessy to “prominent” lawyers in several states coordinating press events and in at least one case directly asking when SNAP could expect a donation after referring a victim. Hammond said she was fired from her job as development director for SNAP after she expressed qualms about the group’s ties to lawyers, who provided donations that in most years accounted for 50 to 80 percent of the group’s funding.

Clohessy “voluntarily resigned” from SNAP “effective Dec. 31,” according to a two-paragraph email from SNAP Board Chairwoman Mary Ellen Kruger. According to his profile on the SNAP website, Clohessy had served as the group’s national director since 1991.

“We are eternally grateful for David’s dedication to SNAP and its mission over the past almost thirty years,” Kruger wrote.

“His passion, his voice, and his kindness have touched us all. We will miss David and we wish him much happiness. David will always be a friend and an inspiration to SNAP and its many dedicated and hardworking volunteers.”

Clohessy, who lives in St. Louis, did not immediately return calls from the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday. Neither did SNAP President Barbara Blaine nor spokeswoman Barbara Dorris.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday, Clohessy said he had quit SNAP five weeks ago and that the lawsuit had nothing to do with his decision to leave.

“I’m just ready for something different,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “It was almost 30 years. I’ve read a lot about nonprofits and organizational development. It’s clear that some new blood helps.”

Tax records indicate Clohessy was one of two full-time SNAP employees, and was paid around $86,000 for his duties as national director. Kruger’s statement did not indicate whether Clohessy also had resigned from his seat on the group’s board of directors.

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Clergy sex abuse survivors group ran kickback scheme with lawyers, says ex-fundraiser’s lawsuit

Cook County Record

Jan. 23, 2017, 2:58pm

Scott Holland


A former fundraiser at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has sued her ex-employer, accusing the Chicago-based self-help agency for victims of clergy sexual abuse of firing her after she exposed an alleged kickback scheme between the Network and trial lawyers suing on behalf of the victims.

Gretchen Rachel Hammond filed a retaliatory discharge complaint on Jan. 17 in Cook County Circuit Court.

Hammond said SNAP — based in Chicago but with 50 regional chapters — hired her in 2011 as its development director, but fired her two years later in February 2013 when she allegedly drew attention to what she alleged were improper dealings between SNAP and attorneys.

In her complaint, Hammond alleged SNAP would refer “survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church. These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”

She said those payments would come in the form of “donations” from the attorneys.

She further alleged that when SNAP communicates with attorneys regarding their lawsuits on behalf of abuse victims, it helps develop legal strategies based on “what will generate the most publicity and fundraising opportunities for SNAP.” Hammond also said she had access to emails in which SNAP officials appeared to be referring clients and soliciting donations in the same communication. Those approaches, she argued, violate federal regulations regarding tax-exempt organizations.

“In reality, SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church,” the complaint said, further noting that during Hammond’s tenure, SNAP “did not have a single grief counselor or rape counselor on its payroll” and never reached out to such counselors to put them in touch with survivors.

Hammond despite being a fundraiser, said she routinely took calls from “distressed survivors” who “confided to her about their trauma.” When she reported receiving these calls, Hammond said her superior told her “to simply not answer phone calls from survivors seeking assistance and counseling.”

She also said SNAP officials, when traveling to The Hague in 2011 to file charges against Pope Benedict in International Criminal Court, used money Hammond raised as development director “to pay for lavish hotels and other extravagant travel expenses.” She also gave examples of when officials spent money purportedly raised for abuse victims on SNAP’s own legal defense.

Hammond said she spent her time at SNAP streamlining its donation-tracking software and donor list and worked to raise its Better Business Bureau rating. In August 2012 SNAP raised her salary from $60,000 to $66,000. However, she noted she was excluded from the internal audit process in 2011.

After she raised concerns about what she perceived as kickbacks, Hammond said her work environment changed with new requests for reporting to supervisors and copying them on all correspondence. As she continued to collect evidence about what she considered illegalities, Hammond said she experienced stress-induced mental and physical health issues.

After her termination, Hammond began working as a fundraiser in May 2013 for the Reeling Film Festival, earning “substantially” less than she did at SNAP and in September 2013 got a job as a journalist for the Windy City Times making $24,000 a year.

In alleging retaliatory discharge, Hammond said SNAP cost her lost wages during her three months of unemployment as well as diminished wages. She said lead fundraisers for nonprofit agencies typically earn $60,000 to $80,000 a year. In addition to a jury trial, Hammond seeks compensatory damages, plus attorney fees.

Hammond is represented in the matter by the firm of Siprut PC, of Chicago.

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Former employee sues group that represents victims of clergy abuse

The Catholic Herald

posted

 (Centre from left to right) Therese Albrecht, Barbara Blaine and Barbara Doris, part of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests - from the US, protest outside St Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh, ahead of the forthcoming visit to the UK by Pope Benedict XVI.

SNAP protestors from the US demonstrate against the 2010 Papal Visit in Edinburgh (CNS)

Gretchen Rachel Hammond accused organisation of being motivated by an ideological hostility to the Catholic Church

A former director of development for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (Snap) has said that the organisation is more interested in fundraising and taking kickbacks from lawyers suing the Catholic Church than in helping survivors.

Gretchen Rachel Hammond, has filed a lawsuit against the organisation in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, further accuses Snap of being “a commercial organisation” and “premised upon farming out abuse survivors as clients for attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors and collect settlement checks from the Catholic Church.”

Hammond worked for Snap from July 2011 to February 2013, and is now a journalist for the Windy City Times. She claims she was fired in retaliation for a series of discoveries she made about the way settlements were being handled, and that the stress caused by Snap’s treatment of her sent her to the hospital four times and resulted in a series of health problems.

She also asserts that Snap “is motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.”

In 2011, Snap helped publicise the attempt in Europe to bring charges against Pope Benedict XVI for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court.

“The allegations are not true,” Snap president Barbara Blaine said in a statement sent to Catholic News Service as well as other news organisations. “This will be proven in court. Snap leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the Snap mission: To help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse.”

Snap, founded in 1989 and based in Chicago, is considered the largest and best-known advocacy organisation for survivors of clerical abuse.

The lawsuit alleges that after abuse survivors are referred to attorneys, “these cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of Snap, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”

Snap, Hammond claims, “regularly communicates with attorneys about their lawsuits on behalf of survivors, receiving drafts of pleadings and other privileged information.” Attorneys and Snap “base their strategy not on the best interest of the survivor, but on what will generate the most publicity and fundraising opportunities for Snap.”

Hammond further claims that the bulk of donations to SNAP have come from attorneys – as much as 81 per cent of the $437,400 in donations made in 2007 and 56 per cent in 2011.

“Tellingly, at one time, during 2011 and 2012, Snap even concocted a scheme to have attorneys make donations to a front foundation, styled the Minnesota Center for Philanthropy, and then have the Minnesota Center for Philanthropy “make a grant to Snap in order to provide a subterfuge for, and to otherwise conceal, the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ kickbacks to Snap.”

It also accuses Snap’s executive director, David Clohessy, of recommending that an abuse survivor pursue a claim in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy settlement.

It quotes a Clohessy email: “I sure hope you DO pursue the WI bankruptcy… every nickle [sic] they don’t have is a nickle that they can’t spend on defense lawyers, PR staff, gay-bashing, women-hating, contraceptive-battling, etc.”

Hammond is not seeking a specific sum in damages but is asking for “compensatory damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest.”

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Did SNAP Receive Kickbacks for Suing the Church?

Lawsuit claims major misbehavior at the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests.

The National Catholic Register

20 January 2017

Kevin Jones/CNA/EWTN News

CHICAGO — A former employee of the controversial Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination for challenging the organization’s misbehavior, including alleged kickbacks from attorneys who were suing the Church on behalf of sexual-abuse victims.

In the lawsuit, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, a past development director of SNAP, claimed to have been fired after coming to learn “SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors — it exploits them.”

Although the plaintiff “had explicitly stated to potential donors that SNAP did not engage in kickback schemes,” Hammond’s discoveries while employed there allegedly showed otherwise, and the reputed proof is on an external hard drive.

“SNAP routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of ‘donations.’ In exchange for the kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church,” the lawsuit charges. “These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”

Hammond’s attorneys filed the lawsuit against SNAP on Jan. 17 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Hammond was employed at SNAP from July 2011 through February 2013, the complaint said.

The lawsuit prompted a flat denial from SNAP President Barbara Blaine.

“The allegations are not true. This will be proven in court. SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: to help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse,” she said in a statement provided to CNA.

According to the SNAP website, Blaine herself says she was abused as an eighth grader by a priest who taught at her Catholic school.

The lawsuit claimed that the organization receives “substantial contributions” from attorneys sometimes totaling more than 40% or 50% of its annual contributions. A prominent Minnesota attorney who represents clergy-abuse survivors reportedly donated several six-figure annual sums, including more than $415,000 in 2008. Other unnamed attorney-donors who represent abuse survivors reportedly came from California, Chicago, Seattle and Delaware.

Hammond claimed that the SNAP leadership provided a list of attorneys who were regular donors and “ordered plaintiff not to reveal to anybody that SNAP received donations from attorneys.”

The lawsuit alleges that, during 2011 and 2012, SNAP “concocted a scheme to have attorneys make donations to a front foundation” in order to conceal attorneys’ “kickbacks.”

SNAP describes itself as “an independent, confidential network of survivors of institutional sexual abuse and their supporters” whose aim is to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth in an effort to “hold Church institutions responsible for enabling abuse and shielding predators.”

Despite the organization’s self-portrayal, the lawsuit charged, “SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.”

The lawsuit cited an April 26, 2011, email from Executive Director David Clohessy recommending an abuse victim pursue a claim against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: “Every nickle [sic] they don’t have is a nickle [sic] that they can’t spend on defense lawyers, PR staff, gay-bashing, women-hating, contraceptive-battling, etc.”

Hammond’s lawsuit questions the organization’s treatment of victims. It claims that SNAP “callously disregards the real interests of survivors” and pressures them to “pursue costly and stressful litigation” instead of the survivors’ best interests.

SNAP allegedly uses publicity about victims’ lawsuits to drive fundraising. The group “regularly communicates” with victims’ attorneys and often receives drafts of complaints and “other privileged information,” which it would allegedly use “to generate sensational press releases on the survivors’ lawsuits.”

“SNAP and survivors’ attorneys would often base their case-filing strategy on what would generate the most publicity for SNAP — instead of the best interests of the survivors,” the suit charges.

It cites an email of SNAP leaders discussing whether publishing a newsletter item would prompt more donations or upset abuse survivors. One leader said: “My initial response is that we err on the side of using it to raise money.”

The lawsuit claims the organization would “ignore survivors who reached out to SNAP in search of assistance and counseling” and had no grief counselors or rape counselors on payroll at relevant times.

The suit says Hammond helped the organization improve its donation-tracking software system, streamlined its donor list, and helped raise its Better Business Bureau ranking and received a raise for this work.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff oversaw the fundraising for SNAP’s trip to The Hague, where the group filed charges against Pope Benedict XVI in the International Criminal Court. SNAP, together with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked the court to investigate Pope Benedict and other Vatican leaders for crimes against humanity related to sex abuse by U.S. clergy.

Hammond reportedly raised “some $1 million” during and after the trip for a public-relations campaign premised on these charges.

SNAP allegedly used the funds “for lavish hotels and other extravagant travel expenses for its leadership.”

In May 2013 the international court dismissed the case as outside its jurisdiction.

The suit also recounts SNAP’s alleged efforts to counter a blogger critical of the organization and gives what it claims to be background of several trials and legal disputes involving SNAP and priests accused of abuse.

The suit claims that when Hammond attempted to confront superiors about the practices, they engaged in retaliation, resulting in her firing. Now, the lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and other relief.

Hammond, who identifies as a transgender woman, is currently a journalist for the Chicago LGBT newspaper the Windy City Times.

CNA contacted attorneys for Hammond but did not receive comment by deadline.

5 Responses to “SNAP announces director named in lawsuit has resigned” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    As those who have followed Sylvia’s Site for a number of years know, for personal reasons I am not now and never have been a member of SNAP. In earlier days I had concerns that the site was about to become a platform for SNAP. It was a rather delicate matter. I procrastinated. I did not want to cause confusion for victims, not did I want to hurt victims. Eventually I contacted individuals whom I both like and respect to ask that they please refrain from promoting SNAP on Sylvia’s Site. They did graciously did so. I thank them 🙂

    With all of that in mind, I have posted the above collection of articles because it will obviously be of interest to many victims. We shall have to wait to see what evidence for or against the allegations is revealed through disclosure and discovery.

  2. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    I REALLY hope this is unfounded! If it IS real, look out…………………..! Mike.

  3. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Just my thoughts – last night I watched President Trump being interviewed by David Muir of ABC. Trump stated repeatedly that our world is “a mess”. This statement may be more accurate than I would like to admit.
    This morning in Toronto, the big news is sexual assault “advocates”, in the company of Mike Layton (Toronto Councillor) are parading in front of the “College St. Bar” and demanding that the bar be closed down because it’s owner and manager have been charged with sexual assault offences.
    I have just sent Councillor Layton an email demanding to know why he does not picket in front of St. Michael’s Cathedral and demand that they close down the church because some priests have been charged and convicted of sexually assaulting minors.
    This just shows how far out of touch, and “a mess” our world really is in.
    Is there any clear thinking left out there in our world? Mike.

    • 1 abandonedsheep says:

      Mike- It is pretty obvious that*clear thinking* does not remain with most of the Bishops. Sometimes, what they are guilty of would get THEM at least 15 years behind bars.

  4. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    1AS – Yes, I have seen that very thing in one case! Further to the point of “clear thinking” would be the ability/desire to stop this foolish political correctness syndrome, and call it like it is.
    There should be no shame/scandal in the truth. I understand only too well that when a person’s thinking is clouded, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to admit the truth.
    I know this only too well! I lived it, so I have seen both sides of this argument. I have great concern over decisions that are being made by church officials with regards to these matters.
    It still appears that their thinking is clouded and jaded at best! Mike.

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