Strong response by the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW to defamatory news story

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Dear Editor,

It is with regret that I have to address a number of lies, misrepresentations and rumours that have been published by the well-known reactionary paper and the attacks that have been made against me and members of the Committee of the Greek Orthodox Community and in particular the Executive, following the decision of members of the Greek Orthodox Community on the 12th March 2017 to approve the sale of Paddington.

These attacks come from a newspaper which in the last 10 years has systematically refused to cover any of the activities of the Community, including the Greek Festival of Sydney, The Greek Film Festival, The Hostel and the establishment of a Dementia Unit, the functions of the Greek Afternoon Schools, welfare the public meetings, 25th March, 28th October, 17th November and the list goes on, but at the same time gives coverage and publishes events which occur in Melbourne and organised by the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne.

The only time that the Community is mentioned by this paper is when it attacks me and my executive, in its usual slanderous method.

And this is the paper that now presents itself as caring for the Greek Orthodox Community.

The continued and sustained attack against me and my committee for many years represents the most disgraceful dirty and unprincipled attack I have ever seen from any paper circulating in Australia.

The reason for its antagonism to me and members of the Board can be found in the support we gave to the resolution of the ecclesiastical problem with the Archdiocese and the fact that we now no longer spend tens of thousands of dollars on advertising in the paper as was the case under another Administration.

The 418 members who were present know exactly what occurred and how the meeting progressed, however for those who were not present, and who may be misled and confused if they read the lies and nonsense appearing in the other paper I briefly explain what occurred.

Members approved the sale after a meeting lasting 3 hours in which members asked a number of questions, and 12 speakers voiced their opinion for or against the sale.

No speaker was denied the right to speak and after the last speaker finished there were no other speakers who wished to express an opinion.

All arguments were voiced and there followed a secret ballot of the members in which 55% voted in favour of a sale.

Mr C Belerhas the Treasurer and I both spoke and presented in great detail all of the 4 offers that were brought in by members of the Community after the letter of the 10th February had gone out to members.

The result of the ballot was conveyed to me at about 6.15 pm and I then declared the result to those that were left being about 10 members.

As there were only 10 members left when the ballot was declared there was no quorum to continue the meeting and form a subcommittee as the 4th motion had proposed.

The subcommittee will be formed from members of the Community at a meeting to be called by the Committee.

The Community prior to agreeing to accept the offer for $23 million had received a number of other offers from a number of companies. Those offers were from $15 million to $18 million.

Now I will address the lies defamatory statements and rumours that have been circulated by the paper and by those who always oppose the Committee whatever we propose.

Falsehood 1 -That we did not inform members of all offers.

The letter advising members of the EGM was dated 10th February 2017 and was forwarded to members. At the time of that letter no other offers had been received.

At 4.30 pm on the 10th February 2017 a letter was delivered to the Community containing the first offer, too late to include in the letter advising members of the EGM.

The other three offers came one by letter dated 15th February 2017 but was delivered to me on the 21st February 2017 and the other two on  28th February 2017 too late to include in the letter to members of the 10th February.

At the meeting of the 12th March all offers were presented and both I and Mr C. Belerhas and other speakers discussed in length the details of the offers.

Lets now examine the falsehoods and misrepresentations by the group and their collaborators.

The terms of the offer of $28,950,000

 This offer was not an offer to purchase but a joint venture with the Community, in which the Company would build apartments which they estimated would take 4 years, they would pay 5% deposit on exchange and the balance after the apartments had been built and sold, and not as falsely claimed by the slanderers when contracts were exchanged.

The Community and the Company would borrow all money necessary for the construction and mortgage its building to finance the construction.

It is obvious to all who looked at this offer, except for the slanderers, that this offer was a high risk offer with no guarantees that it would become a reality.

If the Community on the other hand sold the property for $23 million and bought a property the income it would receive in say three years would be about $1 million per year and of course the value of any property purchased would over three years increase in value.

It was for these reasons that after a meeting of members from a broad section of members at the Community on the 13th February 2017, when this offer was discussed, that the same Company seeing that offer was not in the Community’s best interests and did not have support, made a second offer and delivered it to me on the 21st February. There can be no other reason for a second offer if the first offer was as the slanderers claim a better offer than the $23 million.

The offer of $24 Million

 This is the second offer made by the Company that made the offer for a joint venture. This was an offer under which they would pay a 5% deposit and the balance in 18 months.

This is an offer by which the community would receive the money 1 year later than the offer of $23 million. That would mean that with the $23 million the Community would buy a property and if it received an income of 5% would equate to over 1 million dollars and of course the property would increase in value and would equate top more than the offer for $24 million which of course was subject to a number of conditions.

The offer of $25 million

This offer has one significant condition, that the purchaser will obtain a draft valuation to support the purchase price. That is if the valuation did not value the property at $25 million they would not buy it.

Now the valuation of the property obtained by the Community on the 20th December 2016 was for $11.2 million.

The valuers stated that if it was not for the Heritage restrictions the value could be as high as $16.4 to $20.5 million nowhere near the 25 million that the Company required.

So this Company had never inspected the property, had not been provided with any documents plans etc. and did not know its value, yet they were prepared to offer $25 million.

All of these offers were brought in by a couple of members who have opposed this Committee and who have been opposed to the sale of Paddington.

None of the companies making these offers have inspected the property or ever asked for plans documents or other information.

Falsehood 2- That we brought in new members prior to the EGM

 In the period October 2016 to 12 March 2017 the new members enrolled were 26.

Only 4 of these members were proposed by members of the Committee and the others from various members of the Community, including from members opposing the Committee.

Falsehood 3- That the majority of those who voted came by buses from the Churches

 This scandalous falsehood comes from someone who unfortunately has little respect for the truth, in this instance.

The truth is that 14 elderly members of the Holy Trinity church some of whom are on the church subcommittee and who have served the church for decades as volunteers requested from the President of the Church Committee if the Community’s bus could take them.

That was the only bus used and no other buses were used to “transport members”.

The inference of course being that they voted in a particular way, something which no one unless the accuser is a psychic would know.

This attitude shows the little respect that this individual has for valued members of our Community.

The individual further complains that a brotherhood brought its members to the meeting.

If they were members of the Community they have every right to attend, or does he believe that only persons like him and his views have a right to take part in the affairs of the Community.

Another well-known brotherhood a few days before the EGM met at the Community’s offices and a person who was not even a member of the Community urged them to vote against the sale.

Lastly this individual tells us that three prior presidents opposed the sale. Well that is curious because none of the three named G. Angelopoulos, S. Savidis or V. Koutsounadis spoke at the meeting so as to make their views known.

What of course he is telling us here is that he does not respect the views of the 55% who voted but only of those that agree with him.

I will not descend to answering the usual slanderous and baseless attacks against me and my Committee about rumours of commissions etc. other than to say that if anyone has any evidence of such he should come forth and present it.

The Committee works tirelessly to fulfil their obligations to the members and to the Greek Community in general, and slanderers who have never performed any voluntary work for any philanthropic organisation have no legitimate right to criticise falsely such committed individuals.

Finally I must say that the decision to sell was taken fairly and democratically and after a full and open discussion by the members present.

The members who did not agree with the decision should move on and respect the majority decision.

Yours faithfully

Harry Danalis


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