A former employee of the controversial Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests has filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination for challenging the organization’s misbehavior, including alleged kickbacks from attorneys who were suing the Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims.
In the lawsuit, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, a past development director of SNAP, claimed to have been fired after coming to learn “SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors – it exploits them.”
Although the plaintiff “had explicitly stated to potential donors that SNAP did not engage in kickback schemes,” Hammond’s discoveries while employed there allegedly showed otherwise – and the reputed proof is on an external hard drive.
“SNAP routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of ‘donations.’ In exchange for the kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church,” the lawsuit charges. “These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”
The lawsuit claimed that the organization receives “substantial contributions” from attorneys sometimes totaling more than 40 or 50 percent of its annual contributions. A prominent Minnesota attorney who represents clergy abuse survivors reportedly donated several six-figure annual sums, including over $415,000 in 2008. Other unnamed attorney-donors who represent abuse survivors reportedly came from California, Chicago, Seattle, and Delaware.
Hammond claimed that the SNAP leadership provided a list of attorneys who were regular donors and “ordered Plaintiff not to reveal to anybody that SNAP received donations from attorneys.”
The lawsuit alleges that during 2011 and 2012, SNAP “concocted a scheme to have attorneys make donations to a front foundation” in order to conceal attorneys’ “kickbacks.”
Despite the organization’s self-portrayal, the lawsuit charged, “SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.”
The suit claims that when Hammond attempted to confront superiors about the practices, they engaged in retaliation resulting in the firing. Now, the lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and other relief.
Hammond, who identifies as a transgender woman, is currently a journalist for the Chicago LGBT newspaper the Windy City Times.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.