|ALBANY -- A California priest is suing the Albany Diocese's mediation panel, alleging the agency set up to help victims of clergy sex abuse fraudulently claimed it was independent of the diocese.|
The Rev. Mark Jaufman is seeking $2 million in his federal court action filed this week on his behalf and that of other unnamed victims. The suit targets the Independent Mediation Assistance Program, or IMAP.In his court papers, Jaufman, who had previously announced that as a boy he was abused by a parish priest, said he discussed his situation with IMAP representatives. The panel's investigation of his case has been going on for about a year, he has not been compensated, and he is"disappointed and frustrated," his attorney, John Aretakis, said Friday.
IMAPis headed by retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard Levine and administered by the Albany law firm of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna, of which Levine is a senior counsel.
Jaufman alleges in his lawsuit that IMAP is an agent for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany even though it claims to be independent of the church.
Philip Gitlen,managing partner at Whiteman Osterman and Hanna, issued a statement regarding the legal action: "The suit is entirely without merit, and we look forward to responding to it in the proper form, which is the court system."
IMAP was launched in 2004 with $5 million to help victims of clergy sex abuse. Last month, it said it had provided $1.8million in financial assistance, along with counseling and other services to 31 people. At the time, Levine and Bishop Howard Hubbard announced that those who were minors when they were abused by diocesan priests had until Oct. 25 to request aid. IMAP is scheduled to cease operations on Nov. 27.
The lawsuit also names the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, which is part of the IMAP process.
Carol DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.