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

Letter to the Editor: ‘You Are What Your Record Says You Are’

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To the Editor,

Months after “A Statement from the Diocesan Council Regarding the Diocesan Development Plan Proposal” (August 14, 2018, Mirror-Spectator) was issued, James Kalustian, chairman of the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), still refuses to release a follow up statement concerning the status of the Diocesan Center, despite calls for greater transparency.

At the upcoming Diocesan Assembly in Massachusetts in May, Mr. Kalustian will be publicly asked to resign and/or face a vote of no confidence. Mr. Kalustian, who is up for re-election in 2021, will no longer be able to serve without fear of term limits, as he has done since 2001. A “term limits” proposal has been submitted to the Proposals Committee, which would only allow for a Diocesan Council member to serve for two consecutive four-year terms. The term limits proposal will undoubtedly pass and in due time will be implemented.

It is clear the tone of Mr. Kalustian’s almost two-decades’ run on the Diocesan Council has been of poor communication skills, a lack of transparency, an inability to unite, the failure to properly maintain the Diocesan Center (as it is being held up by “Scotch tape” as he publicly stated last year), colossal failures in hiring executive directors, alienating prominent benefactors from New Jersey and an isolationist management style.  One of the most troubling aspects of Mr. Kalustian in his capacity on the Diocesan Council, is also the manner in which he openly belittled the former Primate, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, both publicly and privately.

Quite simply, Mr. Kalustian is out of touch with large segments of the Diocese, from the youth to the average parishioner to even key benefactors. Under Mr. Kalustian, the morale of the Diocesan staff spirals towards a bottomless pit (or shall I say the Diocesan Bookstore as Mr. Kalustian proposed last May) as they face uncertain times and are on a rudderless ship. With Mr. Kalustian leading the Diocese, we have clearly veered off the course set by St. Vartan when he pronounced to his valiant soldiers “We hold the Holy Gospel as our father and the Mother Church of Armenia as our mother.” There is clearly no indication based on Mr. Kalustian’s undistinguished financial track record as treasurer (six years) and chairman that he can remedy the tragic financial situation of the Diocese without the major fire sale he so desperately desires.

Mr. Kalustian has twice been unable to gather support for monetizing the Diocesan Center, first in conjunction with Moushegh “Michael” Harutunian and Kevork Toroyan a few years ago, and again due to his embarrassing blunders at the Diocesan Assembly in New York in 2018. Mr. Kalustian’s divisive attempt to sell the Diocesan Center without it even being an agenda item at last year’s Diocesan Assembly is a textbook example of his bewildering “leadership” style. Will an accurate report on the physical condition of the Diocesan Center as well as the failed attempt to sell the Diocesan Center be included on this year’s agenda or will Mr. Kalustian parade out more wolves in sheep’s clothing in front of the Diocesan Delegates? “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” (“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”).

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Mr. Kalustian, as Bill Parcells, the former head football coach of your beloved New England Patriots, once said, “You are what your record says you are.”

Rebecca Bakalian Hachikian

Los Angeles

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