Other Matters #2

Posted July 26 2010

 

Below, we post two letters for perusal by our readers. The first letter addressed to relevant GBC members, expresses the concerns of temple devotees for the “Legal compliance issues” affecting administration, and subsequent removal of the Temple President. The second letter is a reply from the GBC.

 

Some facts first:

Not so long ago, the Temple President (TP) involved, was questioned by Australian Federal Police (AFP) in regards to a money laundering scam.  We are not accusing the TP of any willful wrongdoing.  In fact, he claimed he was unaware that the tax umbrella (of which he is the chief architect) was being abused by criminals claiming to be members trying to help ISKCON.  The AFP accepted his story, backed by ISKCON's GBC, and also taking into account the absence of any previous criminal record, along with his involvement in the (ever helpful) FFL program and other community services, he was given a rap on the knuckles by the AFP, and a warning. What the AFP did not know was that the TP had donated eighty thousand dollars to the GBC as part of their cut in the laundering scam. The GBC had come rushing and gushing in defense of the TP before any investigation could reveal the money trail leading to them.

 

In the GBC's reply to the devotees proposal, we will see how embedded the GBC is with its own elected administrators. With full knowledge of the incident mentioned above, and with further indications given by the devotees in regards to ongoing illegalities, the GBC chose to fob of the proposal, giving the TP final say on whether he retain his position or resign. We know now that the TP tendered his resignation, which was accepted at the 2010 GBC meetings, but only to facilitate his administrative duties as a Regional / Zonal Secretary. Further, we notice in the GBC response, that there is sentiment “to allow him the opportunity to remain involved on some level”.  Our belief is that the level implied is none other than the dizzy vertex of tax-exemption, which came under direct threat by the proposal and its intent to introduce auditors.

 

Here is the proposal:

 

From: Sitapati das / Joshua J Wulf <sitapati@worldsankirtan.net>

Date: 25 March 2010 10:27:13 AM AEST

To: Ramai Swami <ramai.swami@iskcon.org.au>, Prabhavisnu Swami <prabhavisnu.swami@pamho.net>, Devamrita Swami <devamrita.swami@pamho.net>

Cc: Tirtharaj Das <tirtharaj@iskcon.org.au>, Param Satya <param.satya@gmail.com>, AdiKesava <adikesavadasa@yahoo.com.ar>, Shreeji Australia <shreeji@in.com.au>

Subject: Brisbane Proposal for GBC

 

Notes in square brackets [] are not part of the proposal, but form supporting documentation.

 ========This proposal is confidential for 14 days or until the GBC has rendered an official verdict========

 TO:

H.H. Ramai Swami

H.H. Prabhavishnu Swami

H.H. Devamrita Swami

H.G. Tirtharaj Prabhu

 

Re: ISKCON Brisbane

 

 Dear Prabhus,

 

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

 

 Here is our proposal for taking responsibility for the situation of ISKCON Brisbane.

 

 --Composition of the Nucleus Leadership Team--

 Temple President: Adi Kesava das

Temple co-Vice-President: Sita-pati das

Temple co-Vice-President: Param Satya dasi

Temple Treasurer: Sakhi Rai das

 

  From this nucleus leadership team we will build out specific leadership teams to deal with the various aspects of the yatra's operation. The managers of Govindas, Govindas Stones Corner, and Krishnas Cafe will report to this leadership team initially.

 

 --Audit of current structure of ISKCON Brisbane--

 We require a structural audit of the current legal and accounting structures of ISKCON Brisbane and its related legal and accounting entities, both commercial and non-commercial. This audit will be performed under a legally binding Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), which will apply to the auditors, and to the new leadership team.

 

The purpose of this audit is three-fold:

 

 1. Legal compliance issues - Legal and Moral Liability

 There are a number of areas where ISKCON Brisbane may need to make adjustments to bring its operations into legal compliance. The new leadership team need to be aware of these areas. They are assuming legal and moral responsibility for the legal and ethical operation of ISKCON Brisbane, and this must be entered into with full disclosure.

 

 2. Legal compliance issues - Regularization

 It will not be possible to construct a strategy to bring the organisation into legal compliance without this audit.

 

 3. Managerial control and oversight

 We need to be aware of the nature and degree of alignment of the legal and accounting structures with the formal leadership structure, and address areas where there is a wide discrepancy.

 

 Why under NDA?

 

 It is possible that the structural audit will reveal areas where action is required to bring operations into legal compliance. This information could be prejudicial to the organisation. It is also possible that information from the audit could be taken out of its wider context and used to prejudice particular individuals.

 In the business world the confidentiality and the appropriate use of information such as this is governed through a combination of professional codes of conduct, conditions of employment contracts, a culture of business confidentiality and legally binding non-disclosure agreements.

 In the case of ISKCON we do not have an established professional management culture; nor employment contracts; and the management role is executed in an unclearly-defined space between public, professional, and personal life. In this situation we believe a legally binding non-disclosure agreement on the outcome of the audit provides the best framework for this information to be used to bring the operation of ISKCON Brisbane into legal compliance.

 [Due to the sensitive nature of this audit, if this proposal is accepted this section will be confidential. In the event the proposal is rejected, this section will be publicly disclosed in the interest of fully disclosing our submission to the community.]

 

 --Structure of ISKCON Brisbane--

 We require that ISKCON Brisbane be created as a legally registered entity in Queensland, legally compliant and transparently operated as a not-for-profit institution. All legally compatible portions of the existing ISKCON operation will be migrated to this new entity, and other portions may be migrated as part of the legal compliance roadmap if they can be made legally compliant within the new structure, or else wound down or spun off.

 

 --Role of Tirtharaj Prabhu--

 We wish to thank Tirtharaj Prabhu for his many years of service to ISKCON Brisbane. He has served the community for a long time, and has now gone on to increase his service to ISKCON in other capacities.

 Therefore we propose that, in the interests of moving the community forward, Tirtharaj Prabhu be given the post of "Temple President Emeritus", and that he retire from executive leadership in Brisbane.

 Key persons within the community are unwilling to support this proposal if it includes Tirtharaj Prabhu in any formal, legal, or executive capacity in the new leadership team. Previous experience has taught us that rehabilitation of a yatra is next to impossible without the support of the existing community. If it is a requirement that Tirtharaj Prabhu remain in an executive role in Brisbane then we do not have sufficient community support for the new leadership team to be successful, and will not proceed with this proposal.

 [Out of respect for Tirtharaj Prabhu's sincere and dedicated service to the yatra and to ISKCON, if this proposal is accepted the above paragraph will be confidential. In the event the proposal is rejected, this paragraph will be publicly disclosed in the interest of fully disclosing our submission to the community]

 

 -- Current State of Community --

 The current state of the community is critical. Widespread passive disengagement (withdrawal of support) has transformed to active disengagement (actively working and organising against the current organisation). ISKCON is facing the very real threat that any potential "legal compliance issues" become real issues, and also the looming appearance of a breakaway temple. If the situation is not addressed in a timely fashion and to an appropriate degree these two outcomes have a high, and increasing probability.

 This proposal is an action plan that aims to minimise the likelihood of these outcomes.

 [Due to the potentially prejudicial nature of this assessment, if this proposal is accepted this section will be confidential. In the event the proposal is rejected, this section will be publicly disclosed in the interest of fully disclosing our submission to the community.]

 

 --Negotiability--

 This proposal treads a fine line, balancing the concerns and needs of community members with the traditional managerial structure of ISKCON. It has been developed to create a working plan which has the support of the proposed management staff, as well as key members of the community, while remaining within the managerial framework of ISKCON. For it to be viable and have an actual mandate from the community, all the points outlined must be accepted. Details, such as the nature of the new legal entity, specific timing of the audit, and financial and legal arrangements etc. will need to be negotiated. In order for the proposal to be viable, the outcome of these negotiations must be something that the community will support, that the proposed managers feel is viable for them to execute, and that satisfies the regulatory requirements of the GBC.

 

 --Timeframe--

This proposal has support for 14 days, and we anticipate your response within that timeframe. During that period the general community will be informed that a proposal is with the GBC for consideration, but the terms of the proposal and discussion regarding it will remain confidential. After 14 days, or the delivery of a verdict by the GBC, the terms of the proposal will be made available to the community.

 

in service,

- Sitapati das

 

 

…..And here is the GBC response:

 

From: "Prabhavisnu Swami" <Prabhavisnu.Swami@pamho.net>

Date: 22 April 2010 9:57:00 AM AEST

To: "Devamrita Swami" <Devamrita.Swami@pamho.net>, "Ramai Swami" <ramai.swami@iskcon.org.au>, "Sitapati das / Joshua J Wulf" <sitapati@worldsankirtan.net>

Cc: "AdiKesava" <adikesavadasa@yahoo.com.ar>, "Param Satya" <param.satya@gmail.com>, "Shreeji Australia" <shreeji@in.com.au>, "Tirtharaj Das" <tirtharaj@iskcon.org.au>

Subject: Brisbane Proposal for GBC

 

Dear Sitapati prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupad!

The GBC Zonal Secretaries for Australia have considered your proposal for

management of the Brisbane temple and have decided not to accept it on the

following grounds.

 

 

1)You propose setting up a new legal entity -

 

"We require that ISKCON Brisbane be created as a legally registered entity

in Queensland, legally compliant and transparently operated as a not-for-profit

institution. All legally compatible portions of the existing ISKCON operation

will be migrated to this new entity, and other portions may be migrated as

part of the legal compliance roadmap if they can be made legally compliant within

the new structure, or else wound down or spun off."

 

This would require extensive discussion on the level of the National Council

and would also require that the Property Trustees and presently registered

ISKCON in Australia be agreeable. This is beyond our scope to approve at the present time.

 

 

2)There is no role for Tirtharaj prabhu in this proposal.

 

Tirtharaj prabhu has stated his determination to remain as TP until the 2010

Australian AGM, which will be held in late May, just over a month from now.

At that time he has stated that he will propose Adi Kesava as the new TP and

will himself resign from the post, while continuing as Regional Secretary.

Under ISKCON law removal of a Temple President against his will requires a

long procedure of various levels of disciplinary action (which could take

months or even years) and we do not find sufficient grounds for the same.

Tirtharaj prabhu has been involved in Brisbane management for over 20 years

and we feel that it is only fair to allow him the opportunity to remain

involved on some level, even though he now has extensive responsibilities in

ISKCON elsewhere also as a Regional or Zonal Secretary.

 

3)You have proposed Adi Kesava as the President, but he does not appear to

have fully agreed with the details of your proposal before you sent it out.

 

We thank you very much for taking the time to come up with this proposal and

we appreciate the concern for ISKCON Brisbane that you and your good wife

have shown in putting this together. Due to the above reasons, however, we

have decided to allow the present management to continue until the AGM, at

which time the matter of Brisbane temple management will be discussed and a

decision taken as to the future direction.

 

We hope this meets you and your wife in good health and Krsna conscious

mood.

 

Your servants,

 

Ramai Swami

Devamrita Swami

Prabhavisnu Swami

 

 

SP…..”….a sannyasi has to be alone without any support or guarantee of support, he has simply to depend on the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead……..A sannyasi is supposed to beg from door to door for his livelihood,..

 

 

Conclusion:

 

Contrary to popular belief, ISKCON's survival is not dependant on the loose change of its congregational members. It would be extremely naïve to believe so. We watched closely, in the early days, as GBC elected administrators worked feverishly to conform to government standards granting a tax-free status. Once recognized as a no-profit / tax-exempt organization, the doors to personal enterprise and wealth were opened only to the ‘inner circle’, and those in a position to exploit it. However, shelter under ISKCON’s tax-exempt- umbrella involves percentages, as noted in the revelations above. Devotees would much rather pay taxes to “Krisna’s representatives”, who are preaching God consciousness, than to a “godless” govt., so the doors were left slightly ajar for the ‘aspiring devotees’; all facility being extended on a need to know basis.

 

In confession: we did not only agree with the persuasions expressed above, we also became a practitioner in its’ procedures. However, when we noticed that sannyasis and gurus were dabbling in real estate and possessed bank accounts, credit cards and motor vehicles, we could not help but wonder what a government auditor would find hidden under ISKCON’s tax-ex umbrella.

 

It is with absolute certainty we assert that Iskcon’s Achilles heel does not lie in the ‘guru issue’ or the ‘poison issue’ or its policies of governance, but in the undeclared wealth of its’ yellow, turmeric garbed, gurus and sannyasis.......Bring on the auditors. 

 

Thanking You

 

BIF

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