Where in the world is Fr. Strycharz? – Bonita Springs, Florida. After a year, Fr. Stan Strycharz of the Diocese of Venice, St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, is embattled and battling. Both. He’s still mum due to a gag order muzzled by his Bishop Frank J. Dewane; he gets full pay and is on administrative leave pending the completion of an internal investigation of his personal and financial matters. He’s obeying the gag order.
Fr. Strycharz has a group of supporters called the “Save the Diocese of Southwest Florida” that seems to be well-organized and represented. Fr. Strycharz also has a public relations firm that represents his – well – public relations (the firm will benefit from this kind of case). Otis Wragg, of the Wragg & Casas public relations firm in Miami with an office in Bonita Springs, speaks for Father and his supporters. Do taxpayers and the faithful ‘through the basket’ pay for this?
Wragg states that Cheffy Passidomo P.A., law firm in Naples, has been retained for Fr. Strycharz since February 2011. No suits or litigation has materialized thus far from this firm.
According to Billy Atwell,
“The Diocese is not prepared to make a statement regarding Fr. Stan Strycharz,” diocese spokesman Billy Atwell said in an email.
What has appeared as a side issue is the dropped lawsuit by the former parish employee Mary Beth Geier. She was hired by Fr. Strycharz through a contract signed on June 1, 2010. Her duties were St. Leo’s office manager, education director, and director of liturgy. Geier filed a lawsuit in the Lee Circuit Court against the defendants: Diocese of Venice, Monsignor Stephen McNamara, Chancellor Volodymyr Smeryk, Art Fleisher of Human Resources, and Bishop Dewane – for breach of employment contract.
Geier had been employed for the earlier four years, and the new contract was to be for one more year at the annual salary of $79,209.
The contract stated that Geier would be given 30 days to correct any performance issue before being terminated. This opportunity wasn’t afforded Geier, the lawsuit contended.
According to the lawsuit, she was told on June 24, 2010 that failing to update her fingerprints was cause for her dismissal, even though she offered to be fingerprinted that day. The suit says that “diocesan officials wouldn’t allow her to do so.” The suit also says that the contract provides a severance that if she were terminated before one year was up that she would receive a full year’s salary.
The lawsuit also states that Geier’s firing and Fr. Strycharz’ being placed on administrative leave afterward was due to Bishop Dewane’s personal animosity toward Fr. Strycharz. Atwell denies the alleged Bishop’s personal grudge.
Geier’s attorney, Charles A. Murray of Naples, said that Geier dropped the lawsuit because of the difficult process and since has found a new job. According to the Naples Daily News, diocesan officials have stated that Geier wasn’t compensated in any way to drop the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also states that the Diocese tried to get Fr. Strycharz to fire Geier again after the Diocese fired her. The lawsuit states that the Diocese did this “in an effort to conceal their prior tortious interference with an employment contract” because the Diocese was not a party to the contract.
The lawsuit also states that “Father Strycharz refused this request and now he has been placed on administrative leave, slandered and his own job is in jeopardy.”
Just after Easter, Fr. Luis Pacheco left St. Leo’s Parish and has been placed on sabbatical for six months due to fatigue, according to Atwell.