Priest’s lawyer frustrated by not being allowed to see church audit

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The Ottawa Citizen

29 September 2011  

BY ANDREW DUFFY AND MEGHAN HURLEY

Father Joe LeClair, photographed inside Blessed Sacrament Church in the Glebe in April, 2009, admitted in April, 2011, he had a gambling problem after the Citizen published a story that revealed the extent of his addiction and the ease with which he could access church funds.

Father Joe LeClair, photographed inside Blessed Sacrament Church in the Glebe in April, 2009, admitted in April, 2011, he had a gambling problem after the Citizen published a story that revealed the extent of his addiction and the ease with which he could access church funds.

Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Father Joseph LeClair’s lawyer says he’s deeply frustrated by his inability to obtain the audit that triggered a police probe at Blessed Sacrament Parish.

Lawyer Ian Stauffer said LeClair, former pastor at the Glebe church, has been treated shabbily.

Diocesan officials, he said, have rebuffed his attempts to review the audit by Deloitte and Touche LLP. That audit formed a key part of a six-month review by the diocese into financial irregularities at the parish.

“It’s insulting frankly, to call a spade a spade,” Stauffer told the Citizen in an interview Monday.

“I’m insulted by this as a lawyer: when you represent someone you expect there to be some fairness. If they’re going to accuse your client of something, you expect to at least see the evidence so you can respond. It’s wrong what they’ve done here.”

Diocesan officials, he said, in refusing to give him a copy of the audit, say the matter is in police hands.

Stauffer made the comments two days after Msgr. Kevin Beach, vicar general of the Ottawa archdiocese, announced that the police have been asked to investigate “questionable” financial transactions made by LeClair during the last five years of his tenure at Blessed Sacrament.

A spokesperson for Beach said the vicar general will not answer questions about the case until after he has met with Blessed Sacrament’s parishioners. That meeting is to take place after the 11 a.m. mass on Sunday.

LeClair, 53, has been enrolled in an addictions treatment program for the past three months in Aurora to deal with his gambling problem.

Stauffer said LeClair is in relatively good spirits and believes his addiction is now behind him.

Blessed Sacrament reported deficits in four of the past five years despite taking in $2.95 million during that time. At the end of May, the parish was in a net deficit position of $40,718, according to the audit.

Stauffer said LeClair has told him that he was able to control his addiction such that he did not take church money to gamble.

“That’s what I’m being told: that the gambling money came from his winnings,” Stauffer said. “He’d lose, but he’d also win more and he’d reinvest that, for lack of a better term, into the gambling.

“Which went on – and I know there seemed to be a gambling frenzy there for awhile – but honestly, Father Joe has said to me, and I can only pass on what he tells me – that he has never used any money from church proceeds for his gambling. And people either believe that or not believe that.”

The diocesan review of Blessed Sacrament raised concerns about the handling of Sunday collections, the misuse of church accounts, the failure to set aside refugee sponsorship money and deficient accounting practices.

“What I don’t understand,” Stauffer said, “is how all of this could go on for years and no one ever say anything about it, if there’s a real concern.”

The parish council and its finance committee, he said, should have offered LeClair more direction in terms of how to manage church money: “They should have been doing oversight.”

LeClair was the only one who could sign cheques issued from church accounts. He did not need a counter-signature and did not have to submit receipts to have cheques approved.

The former chair of Blessed Sacrament’s finance committee, Herve Dejordy, has called LeClair “a one-man band.”

Neither Dejordy nor another member of the finance committee, Jim Ovens, would comment on the situation Monday.

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Police Investigating Financial Irregularities at Blessed Sacrament Parish

CFRA

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lauren Davis with Anna Drahovzal

Ottawa Police are now probing financial irregularities at Blessed Sacrament Parish in the Glebe.

An audit by Deloitte and Touche raised several questions about how money in the parish was handled, and led to the resignation of pastor Father Joe LeClair, who admitted that he had a gambling problem.

Police will look into financial irregularities at the church during the last five years of LeClair’s tenure. The Archdiocese says a review has found questionable transactions that need to be investigated.

LeClair’s lawyer, Ian Stauffer, is confident that his client will be cleared.

“He wants this to be concluded,” Stauffer tells CFRA. “He believes he’s done nothing wrong with the church funds.”

LeClair is currently in an addictions program. He claims that he was forced to resign, that the diocese never gave him the opportunity to continue his duties even in a limited role.

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