Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pittsburgh Presbytery meeting at Bakerstown: 3. Foundation oversight and accountability

This is a further report on the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery on December 1, 2005 at the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown.

The Presbytery spent a substantial time in debate and voting on matters related to the Pittsburgh Presbyterian Foundation (hereinafter, "PPF"), not to be confused with the Presbyterian Foundation.

The papers made available in advance of the meeting included a motion to be presented by Presbytery Council for the Presbytery to remove all of the directors of the PPF. The vacancies would be filled immediately upon nominations from the Presbytery's Nominating Committee.

At the time of the Council's report, Presbytery Council Chair Doug Dorsey did not present the motion printed in the papers, but instead made his own motion, which received a second and was ruled by the moderator to be the main motion. His motion recommended that the Presbytery form an Administrative Commission with full authority to resolve the matter. The motion also referred the pre-printed motion to the administrative commission with authority to act.

Presbytery Council Chair Doug Dorsey described the situation. The PPF was formed in 1993 as a supporting organization of the Presbytery with $250,000 and now has investments of about $6,000,000. The Presbytery's auditors have raised concerns that the PPF appears to be functioning more like a private foundation than a supporting organization of the Presbytery. Different tax regulations apply depending on which type of organization the PPF is. The more advantageous form is for the Foundation to be a supporting organization, as originally intended.

The concerns about the PPF's status became more focused in May of this year when the Presbytery's auditors refused to do an audit of the PPF alongside the Presbytery's audit until the matter was resolved. The Presbytery Council requested the PPF board to suspend disbursements until the matter was resolved. Nevertheless on Monday the PPF board voted to disburse $478,000, according to Doug Dorsey.

The debate on the motion to form an administrative commission was lengthy. A motion to table failed. The Presbytery gave the privilege of the floor to Attorney Susan Mussman, who had been retained to advise the Council; she explained to the Presbytery the advice she had the Council. It became necessary for the Presbytery to extend the time for debate. A motion to postpone was made and withdrawn. A substitute motion to refer the matter back to Council also failed. Attorneys present wanted an opportunity to review the legal advice given by the attorney retained by Council. There were some differences of perception about who had told whom what and when. Presbyters who knew members of the current board of PPF spoke about their good character. Some wanted more time for the PPF Board and the Council to work on the disagreement.

In the end, the motion made by Doug Dorsey passed 130-73. Moderator David Carver appointed four ministers and three elders to the administrative commission.

So at this point there was an administrative commission in place, ready to gather whatever information it needed from the board of PPF and the Presbytery Council in order to make a decision about what steps would be necessary. The authority of that commission included the authority of the Presbytery to remove all of the directors of the PPF, if the commission deemed it appropriate.

Then the other shoe dropped during the report of the Presbytery's Standing Committee on Nominations. There was a vacancy on the board of PPF because of an unexpired term, and there was also the need to elect a new class of directors to the PPF board with terms to expire in 2008.

None of the Committee's nominees were incumbents on the board of PPF. There were nominations from the floor in each case, and three incumbents on the PPF board were nominated for the class of '08. There were two paper ballots used, one for the '06 vacancy and the other for the class of '08. In each case, the Presbytery elected its Committee's nominees.

Dealing with this matter was time-consuming and painful for all. At the end of the meeting Moderator David Carver would remind all of us of the need to pray for one another because of the strained relationships within our fellowship.

My other articles on this meeting: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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