National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  October 10, 2003

Conference employee attributes firing to words on abuse scandal

David Pollard joined the California Catholic Conference 18 years ago. He was conference associate director for public policy. Part of his job was lobbying, part was writing position papers, testifying and keeping the conference abreast of significant legislation.

Over the years, he served three directors and said he received excellent annual reviews. On Feb. 20 this year, he said, he was asked to attend a 3 p.m. meeting, was fired, and told to be out of his office by 3:30.

Pollard said he was told by his boss, Ned Dolejsi, conference executive director, that the California bishops “had indicated their concern over the potential impact of the pending lawsuits on pedophilia. They had begun cuts in their own dioceses and while they had not cut the conference budget for this year at their fall meeting, they had advised Dolejsi it was necessary for him to watch expenses in view of what they saw as very large damages.”

“So,” said Pollard, “Dolejsi told me I was the one selected.”

Pollard said he pointed out that archdiocesan personnel policy required that in restricting staff size, seniority be given preference. “And obviously, I was the most senior of 10 paid staff and two contract staff.”

Dolejsi told him this was “an extraordinary situation.” But Dolejsi “would not put it in writing,” said Pollard. “It is stipulated [in the policies and procedures] that in cases of termination it is to be put in writing. Nothing was ever put in writing. And they refused me a letter of reference unless I signed a letter that I would not bring action against the conference.

“I refused to do that,” he said. “That’s extortion.”

Dolejsi told NCR he could not discuss personnel matters.

According to Pollard, Dolejsi refused to conduct a review as required by policy and passed the matter straight to the executive committee of three bishops, Sylvester Ryan of Monterey, Stephen Blaire of Stockton and William Weigand of Sacramento.

Ryan, in a letter to Pollard, said that if the bishops questioned Dolejsi’s judgment it would be micromanaging. Pollard said he asked for a meeting with the bishops, himself and Dolejsi, “as Catholic gentlemen without lawyers.” The bishops declined.

Pollard said, “we were told in the fall [2002] that the nature of the Catholic conference in California would be interrupted because of the pedophilia claims. That there was going to have to be an executive, legal and public relations focus on the issue statewide, as well as assistance to the individual dioceses.

“It was announced that some dioceses had made huge cuts in personnel, entire ministries, reducing service to the people of the church in order to set aside funds for potential legal obligations.”

“I said, ‘Well, why don’t we tell the truth?’ At a staff meeting I said I think they [the bishops] are making a mistake. We should go ahead and let the courts deal with the issues, come to judgment, and if we’ve done harm we make restitution in so far as we can for the harm,” Pollard said.

Some shared the same reactions, some said nothing. Dolejsi, Pollard said, just sat pokerfaced.

“I think ultimately this is where the heat came from [toward me],” said Pollard. “But that’s just an opinion, there’s nothing to base it on.”

Pollard, who has taken a position as executive director of a foundation in Wyoming, has filed a grievance against the conference.

-- Arthur Jones

National Catholic Reporter, October 10, 2003

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