Parish accounts being investigated
15 September 2011
BY ANDREW DUFFY AND MEGHAN HURLEY
OTTAWA — Blessed Sacrament Parish brought in a record $668,000 in revenue last year from Sunday collections and other fundraising, but still ended up in the red, states a recently filed financial report. The report, published by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), is the only public accounting to date of how money was handled at the parish, a registered charity, in 2010.
It shows that the church, then led by Father Joseph LeClair, enjoyed a banner financial year.
Blessed Sacrament collected substantially more money than at any time in its 80-year history, a testament to the popularity of LeClair, who left the parish in late May after admitting to a gambling problem.
The church raised $577,000 in 2009 and $550,000 in 2008.
The 2010 CRA filing offers a limited breakdown of the church’s expenses.
It shows the church spent $225,322 on salaries and benefits for four staff members; $115,478 on “occupancy costs” associated with parish buildings; $35,216 on office supplies and expenses; and $2,488 on interest and bank charges.
Another $237,161 was accounted for as “other expenditures,” including spending on the church’s charitable activities.
In all, according to the report, Blessed Sacrament spent $615,665 in 2010.
The parish took in $52,834 more than it spent during the year, but faced bills and other liabilities that apparently tipped its balance sheet into the red.
According to the CRA report, Blessed Sacrament’s total liabilities outstripped its total assets by more than $20,000.
The report does not describe the nature of the liabilities or when they were incurred.
Herve Dejordy, Blessed Sacrament’s former accountant, has previously confirmed that the parish finished 2010 in a deficit position.
The church’s liabilities included taxes owed to the Ottawa archdiocese and money donated for refugee sponsorships, Dejordy has said.
Two individuals donated $50,000 to Blessed Sacrament last year to assist two refugee families. Dejordy has said that money went into the church’s main bank account, from which heat, hydro and other expenses were paid.
The donations were recorded as liabilities, he said, since the money would have to be paid when the refugee families arrived.
The CRA report raises still more questions about how money was handled at the Glebe church while under LeClair’s stewardship.
Msgr. Kevin Beach, vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Ottawa, said he would not comment on the report.
The diocese, he said, will soon share with Blessed Sacrament’s parishioners the results of an audit into the church’s finances.
The diocese launched an “internal review” of finances at the church in early March. That review, performed by Deloitte and Touche LLP, raised questions about $250,000 worth of cheques issued to LeClair from church accounts between 2006 and 2010.
LeClair had the authority during those years to issue a cheque, even to himself, without another signature. Many of the transactions had no receipts or other documentation to support them.
The auditors subsequently recommended measures to improve financial accountability at the church, including requiring that all cheques be counter-signed.
In April, the Citizen revealed that LeClair received more than $137,000 in cash advances on his credit card at the Casino du Lac-Leamy in 2009 and 2010.
In those years, he racked up personal credit card bills of more than $490,000, much of it through the use of cash advances.
LeClair has repeatedly insisted he did not use church funds to gamble.
Following publication of the story, the Ottawa diocese ordered a more thorough audit of Blessed Sacrament’s books. That process has proven to be complex and has taken months to complete.
LeClair left Blessed Sacrament in May. He later entered an addiction treatment program to address his gambling.
In June, the parish’s longtime accountant, Dejordy, was fired from his volunteer position. Msgr. Beach characterized the dismissal as a measure designed to restore confidence in the financial administration of the parish.
That same month, a new pastor, Rev. Randy Hendriks, was appointed to Blessed Sacrament.