St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral (photo: Yerevantsi, Wikimedia, 2016)

To the Editor:

It appears “A Statement from the Diocesan Council Regarding the Diocesan Development Plan Proposal” (August 14, 2018, Mirror-Spectator) has sparked a timely discussion about the decades of poor leadership, management and communication skills of “career Diocesan Council members” in the Eastern Diocese.

Mr. James Kalustian, the poster child for a “career Diocesan Council member,” has served since 2001, both as a treasurer and currently as chairman. It is very clear that Mr. Kalustian has no intention of holding a Special Diocesan Assembly Session before the May 2019 Diocesan Assembly in Massachusetts, as requested by the Diocesan Delegates in their historic petition. The Diocesan Council is cleverly avoiding facing the Diocesan Delegates until next year at all costs under the pretext “there is no deal yet to discuss.” It is well known that Mr. Kalustian would be publicly asked to resign at a Special Diocesan Assembly Session. Further, Mr. Kalustian’s is up for re-election in 2021, at which time he’ll have served for two straight decades, without fear of term limits. It is the “career Diocesan Council members” like Mr. Kalustian, who reduce the chances of election to the Diocesan Council among the younger Diocesan Delegates, by never giving up their thrones.

At the Diocesan Assembly in May, Mr. Kalustian, a former member of the Supreme Spiritual Council, advocated strongly for the sale of the land of the Diocesan Center “because we have no other choice.” Upon the embarrassment of realizing a month later that prominent benefactors of the Eastern Diocese and Holy Echmiadzin from the greater New York area, families such as Bedevian, Dadourian, Nazarian and Toufayan, were adamantly against the sale of the land of the Diocesan Center, he franticly shifted gears in an attempt to save face and lease the land of the Diocesan Center. His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, will arrive in New York the third week of September, at which time Mr. Kalustian will again attempt to minimize the fallout from the proposed sale.

Rather than bring in seasoned experts from New York City to carefully study and identify ways to monetize the land of the Diocesan Center before negotiations began, Mr. Kalustian prefers to shrug off well intentioned recommendations, often to the frustration of fellow Diocesan Council members, as well as members of the Diocesan Board of Trustees. Despite having no expertise in the real estate and construction market in New York City, Mr. Kalustian continues negotiating without a current appraisal.  No matter how divisive the proposal is to the community or how damaging they are to relations with key benefactors of the Eastern Diocese and Holy Echmiadzin, Mr. Kalustian and some of his fellow Diocesan Council members press on in their failed attempt to prove they are the modern day Haik Kavoukjian and Dadour Dadourian.

The developer negotiating against Mr. Kalustian and the Eastern Diocese has decades of experience in the New York City market. The imbalance in expertise is like sending someone with a second grade knowledge of Armenian to represent the Eastern Diocese at a Supreme Spiritual Council meeting at Holy Echmiadzin.

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Like a corporate CEO to his shareholders, at what point will the chairman and former treasurer (2005-2011) realize that he must accept some of the responsibility for the flawed management and financial failures of the Eastern Diocese since 2001? It appears Mr. Kalustian is simply not the right fit for the Diocese at this critical junction, when communication and transparency are paramount.

Having continuously taught Sunday School for over fifty years in the Eastern and Western Diocese, I suggest that the chairman of the Diocesan Council refer to the rhetorical illustration used by Khrimian Hayrig to describe the helplessness he felt at the Congress of Berlin. With Mr. Kalustian desperately trying to make a deal at any cost, we are again stuck sticking our paper ladle in the cauldron of harissa, while the developer has already arrived with his iron ladle.

Rebecca Bakalian Hachikian

Los Angeles

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