When the chief financial officer of the Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach allegedly embezzled $400,000 of church money in the early 1990s, the diocese let him repay less than a fourth of it, didn't pursue him when he quit making payments and kept the incident quiet.
But the cathedral parish of the diocese has been diligent in its pursuit of a 54-year-old Hispanic housekeeper, fired by the pastor over a laundry dispute, to make her repay the $275-a-week unemployment benefits granted her by the state.
Rosa Restrepo washed and ironed church linens, cleaned bathrooms and offices, vacuumed and mopped two houses and did laundry for the priests of St. Ignatius Loyola Cathedral in Palm Beach Gardens.
A state hearing officer said she was entitled to unemployment payments, but the church got the decision overruled by the Unemployment Appeals Commission in Tallahassee.
Restrepo will have to pay back $7,150 unless the 4th District Court of Appeal reverses the commission's ruling -- but she still hasn't found a job and says she has no money for a lawyer. Every one she called wanted from $1,500 to $5,000 to take her case, she said.
The Rev. John Kasparek fired Restrepo in October 2001, saying she didn't do his laundry one day after the maintenance supervisor told her to. He cited previous instances in which he said she cleaned one of the priests' houses instead of vacuuming and mopping the church, and took a later-than-usual lunch hour and went to a chapel to pray without getting permission.
Another priest, the Rev. Timothy O'Toole, complained that she failed to clean the glass-topped tables on his patio before guests arrived for a barbecue and that she once changed the comforter on his bed but forgot the sheets.
...While laundry and cleaning problems were the stated reasons for Restrepo's firing, festering disquiet in the parish over a number of other issues may have played a role in what happened afterward, according to documents in the case file.
"The main reason that Father Kasparek wanted me fired was because I knew of his personal relationship with the new musician of the parish, Arthur Nobile," Restrepo wrote in a Feb. 1 statement to the Agency for Workforce Innovation, which oversees unemployment claims.
Read the whole thing. It only gets worse, and Rosa Restrepo isn't the only one who's suffered. It's a hideous story.