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Sister Angela of the Sisters of Bethany.

Sue De Lapa

Sister Angela of the Sisters of Bethany.


Where’s the Money?

Donations for the Sisters of Bethany Goes Missing


On the Beat

Where’s the Nuns’ $$$?: The Sisters of Bethany are saying, “Show us the money!”

An attorney retained by their supporters is demanding that a local woman turn over funds donated by the public to aid the nuns, (who are being evicted from their Eastside convent), and also account for any money spent.

As of Thursday afternoon, Denise D ‘Sant Angelo, president of the committee raising money for the nuns, has not complied, according to lawyer Mack Staton.

The only thing he has heard from her since sending a letter earlier this week was a cryptic voicemail saying that his services weren’t needed because she was turning the matter over to the L.A. archdiocese.

It’s not clear how much D’Sant Angel may be holding, but it could be more than $10,000, according to those with knowledge of the matter.

When I reached D’Sant Angelo Thursday afternoon, she said she was turning the matter over to the archdiocese and California Attorney General’s office, but hung up before I could ask her when she intended to turn the money over to the nuns or their supporters.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg told me that D’Sant Angelo called archdiocese officials Thursday morning, “to tell them about the dispute,” but no money was turned over to his knowledge. In any case, the archdiocese has no jurisdiction over the Guatemala-based Sisters of Bethany order, he said. “You can’t turn it over to us.”

The Santa Barbara nuns need the donations to cover the expenses for the upcoming move from their convent next to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The archdiocese says it needs to sell the building to help cover court settlements for victims of abuse by priests, and has given the nuns a December 31 eviction deadline.

The sisters reportedly have found a place to live, but supporters decline to identify the location until final arrangements are made.

Attorney Staton says no one is accusing D’Sant Angelo of any wrongdoing. It’s just necessary to get the donations to the nuns and receive an accounting, he said. While she told the Daily Sound that she has signed papers to form a nonprofit, Staton said he could find no record of such a nonprofit and in any case it normally can take a year to get approval.

As for the money, “I don’t know where it is,” he said. Asked if intended to seek a court order if she doesn’t comply, Staton said, “We’ll figure out what to do” when the time comes.

He said he was concerned that the controversy will slow down donations to the sisters.

In our brief conversation, D’Sant Angelo blamed the controversy on “Ernie Salomon creating drama,” and said the nuns don’t realize that they don’t have the authority to demand the money.

Salomon is one of the leaders of a group formed several months ago to help the nuns after they received their eviction notice. Some rather sizeable donations to the Save Our Sisters committee have been reported, along with $5 and $10 checks. Salomon said that after the nuns turned over a $10,600 cashiers check to Denise, he arranged to stop payment on the check before it was cashed due to the dispute.

The nuns released a letter Thursday saying:

We the Sisters of Bethany of Santa Barbara are no longer associated in any way with Denise D’ Sant Angelo or any organization that she is affiliated with,” and that she is “not authorized to act on our behalf or in our name in any manner, including, but not limited to, the solicitation of donations on our behalf. If you choose to make a donation to help with our relocation and continued living expenses, please send a check directly to our convent made to: Sisters of Bethany, 215 N. Nopal St., Santa Barbara, CA 93103.

NP Negotiations to Begin: They said it couldn’t happen, but lo and behold, the News-Press and Teamsters Union representing the newsroom are reportedly due to begin contract talks next week.

The News-Press, after doggedly fighting the union for over a year, had to yield after the National Labor Relations Commission finally put its stamp of approval on the newsroom vote to organize. Almost all the earlier union activists have been fired - actions the NLRB claims are unfair labor practices - or have quit. A judge’s decision on the firings is not expected until late winter or spring of 2008.

How long it will take to hammer out a contract remains to be seen, but it’s certain to be many months and perhaps even a year. The looming question is whether owner Wendy McCaw, who is ferociously anti-union, will ever bring herself to rehire the fired journalists and sign a Teamsters contract. If not, what then? Sell the paper, thus relieving the ongoing headache, but depriving her of the bully pulpit and editorial page onslaughts? Keep the extremely valuable building on De la Guerra Plaza, but dump the newspaper itself, which has lost 14 percent of its circulation, according to a six-month report published by Editor & Publisher?

The final edition of this story has yet to be written and may not be for years to come. Some observers won’t be surprised if more appeals are on the horizon if the NLRB administrative judge’s decision goes against the paper. Meanwhile, McCaw’s $25 million breach of contract arbitration action against former editor Jerry Roberts may finally reach the hearing stage before the year’s out.

Numerous Santa Barbarans have been hauled in by McCaw’s lawyers for depositions in the case. Roberts, first hit by McCaw’s $500 million action, responded with a $10 million counterclaim, which McCaw countered with the $25 mil slam. Both sides decided to let it rest at that point.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or by phone at 965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.

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