SAVING THE SISTERS OF BETHANY: Santa Barbara’s Sisters of Bethany, required to move from their Eastside convent, have been offered temporary refuge at St. Mary’s Retreat House, an Episcopal establishment near the Santa Barbara Mission. Meanwhile, their supporters are still trying to get Denise D’Sant Angelo to turn over an estimated $4,700 in donations to the nuns-without any success, at least as of this writing.

On the Beat

D’Sant Angelo-who at one point assumed control of the fundraising committee that’s since disbanded-has not turned over the money, despite a letter a week ago from Mack Staton, an attorney representing the nuns. Although the Catholic nuns will have a temporary refuge with the Episcopal order, they will need the community donations for expenses and for finding a new home, said Ernie Salomon, who is assisting the Sisters of Bethany. Although D’Sant Angelo is not accused of breaking the law, she must turn over the funds to the nuns, Salomon said. The nuns have declared that they want no affiliation with D’Sant Angelo and that she is “not authorized to act on our behalf.”

The three Catholic nuns will be moving in with the Episcopal Sisterhood of the Holy Trinity sometime before December 31. That’s the deadline being imposed by the L.A. Archdiocese for them to vacate the convent next to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church that the order has occupied for the past half-century.

No moving date has been announced. The L.A. Archdiocese, which owns the Nopal Street building, has ordered the nuns to move so that the property can be sold to help pay settlements to victims of sex abuse by priests. As for D’Sant Angelo’s claim in the Santa Barbara News-Press on Tuesday that donors are “massively” withdrawing donations, attorney Staton told me, “We haven’t gotten a single call.”

HE’LL NEVER LOSE NEVERLAND (PROBABLY): I may have to eat my words, but it seems unlikely that Michael Jackson will let Neverland Ranch go to auction and lose it. True, Jacko has let the place go downhill with alarming neglect and never returned after beating that child molestation rap a few years ago. It’s still worth many millions, and why kiss the bucks goodbye? It also seems unlikely that he’ll ever set foot in Santa Barbara County again, even though zealous Tom Sneddon, who brought Jackson to trial, has retired as district attorney.

Jackson apparently has the ability to fix the default on the $23-million loan and probably will. What’s puzzling is why he doesn’t just put the white elephant on the market. Speaking of which, his menagerie of animals is apparently gone too.

TALK, TALK, TALK: As the News-Press and newsroom employees finally start contract negotiations, I recall when the New York Times (former owner of the News-Press) decided to break our union there. The time-tested anti-union strategy is to string out negotiations, debating each minute point to a maddening degree, then scheduling the next session for weeks later. That’s what the Times did, and it remains to be seen if this same strategy isn’t what the News-Press has in mind. However, in this case, the journalists have the Teamsters on their side. Do not expect them to have a contract wrapped up any time soon-if ever.

GOATS AS GIFTS: I’ve decided to give my wife a goat as a Christmas gift. Not that she’ll ever actually see it. Seems that for $30 you can buy a goat for a destitute Rwandan widow or orphan who survived the murder, torture, rape, and hunger that swept the African nation during the 1994 genocide. “Because I do volunteer work in Rwanda [doing mental health training for genocide survivors], I have seen extreme poverty and malnutrition in this very poor country,” Betsy Kain told me. Her church, All Saints-by-the-Sea in Montecito, is affiliated with a nonprofit aiming to raise money to buy 500 goats. Gifts are tax-deductible. Checks can be addressed to Jubilee Campaign USA, noted “Goats for Gifts,” and sent to David Kain, 507 Carriage Hill Court, Santa Barbara, 93110.

SOUR NOTES: According to my sources, the lawsuit filed last year by former Santa Barbara Symphony music director Gisle Ben-Dor against the symphony is headed for arbitration, since mediation failed. Ben-Dor claimed, among other things, that she was bullied into resigning after a decade leading the orchestra.

“We’re very sad” about the dispute and “disappointed” that Ben-Dor wants to go into binding arbitration, said Janet McGinnis, the symphony’s attorney. The symphony still values Ben-Dor, McGinnis said. “We don’t understand her complaint,” but the symphony will defend itself in the arbitration action, she said.

My understanding is that Ben-Dor wanted to be asked back for two or three guest conducting appearances to take the sting out of her departure and protect her reputation, and that the symphony offered only one. Now, with mediation failing, the arbitration issue is money, not appearances. Ben-Dor, who is traveling outside the U.S., could not be reached for comment.


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