Sunday, March 7, 2004

Prosecutor's office reviewing church spending


Pastor kept 'special' account

By Anna Michael
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MONTGOMERY - The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing a police investigation into the spending from a church fund controlled by the former pastor of Good Shepherd Church to determine if a crime was committed.

An audit completed last fall by KPMG found that church finances were in order, except for a discretionary account controlled by the Rev. Tom Axe, according to Dan Andriacco, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Axe has acknowledged in a statement to parishioners that he used an unspecified amount of money from the account he oversaw "for the personal benefit of the pastor."

"It did not appear to be something that would be a criminal matter because it was an issue of a discretionary account set up for the pastor's purposes," Andriacco said.

"We eventually decided that it would be prudent to inform the prosecutor's office."

Axe, who cited health problems and retired from the parish last May during the audit, has not been charged with any crime.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said his office would review the report soon "to see if there is probable cause to present it to the grand jury."

Andriacco said Good Shepherd's attorney has talked with Axe's attorney to try to resolve how much money may have been used inappropriately. Since the audit covered one year, the parish is interested in looking at Axe's use of money during his nine years as pastor.

"This is not an issue of money being missing, it's an issue of making some judgments to how in a given case money was used," Andriacco said. "There is a great deal of understandable impatience in the parish. People want to know how much money was used inappropriately and when it will be paid back. We understand that, but these kinds of things take a long time."

Axe has said that he will pay back the money, but there is no clear documentation showing how much money was used.

"I can tell you it could be substantial," Andriacco said.

The current pastor of Good Shepherd, the Rev. Robert Schmitz declined to discuss the investigation Saturday, but Andriacco said Schmitz has been making changes.

"The new pastor has been very communicative with the parish about changes he has made and wants to makes in light of this incident," Andriacco said.

E-mail amichael@enquirer.com




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