Ex-financial director sues Jackson Catholic Diocese for wrongful termination

Published 8:48 pm Thursday, October 17, 2019

The former finance director of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson said in a lawsuit that the diocese fired him in retaliation for his complaints over budget practices, something the diocese disputes.

The Clarion Ledger reports that Arie “Aad” Mattheus de Lange filed the lawsuit earlier this month against the diocese and Bishop Joseph Kopacz.

The lawsuit alleges that the reasons given for de Lange’s termination were not true and that he’d never had a performance evaluation or an appraisal. The lawsuit said de Lange drew the ire of the diocese and Kopacz by objecting to the budget for Catholic Charities and how it might impact the diocese.

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“The reasons proffered for de Lange’s termination were false, pretextual, and did not rise to the level of grave reason,” his lawsuit says. “De Lange’s discharge was retaliatory in nature based upon his reasonable objection to the unrealistic budget proposed for Catholic Charities and the potential adverse impact it posed to the diocese.”

De Lange alleges in the lawsuit that he objected to a decision in 2016 to name Kopacz as the interim executive director of the diocese because he thought it was a potential conflict for board members who can fire an executive director but not a bishop.

He said he also questioned a budget arrangement under which Catholic Charities had an account tied to the diocese’s checking account, something he felt left the diocese ad the guarantor of Catholic Charities.

De Lange said Kopacz terminated his employment on October 3, 2018 and listed a number of reasons including a lack of “leadership, communication and collaboration between the office of Finance and Temporal Affairs with diocesan leadership,” the lawsuit said.

Other reasons included in the letter were the weakened financial and administrative condition of the diocese and an unexpected large deficit.

The diocese said in a statement to the newspaper that it generally does not comment on pending litigation or personnel matters but it stands by the reasons for the firing listed in the termination letter.