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Fairfield Univ. audit finds Haiti gifts unaccounted for

Former chaplain handled funds

By Stephen Singer
Associated Press / February 19, 2010

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HARTFORD - Fairfield University said it cannot account for more than $120,000 intended to go to a Haitian school where a former Connecticut man is accused of sexually abusing boys.

The money is part of nearly $776,000 raised at the Jesuit university from 1997 to 2008 for Project Pierre Toussaint. The Haitian school was cofounded and directed by Douglas Perlitz, a 1992 Fairfield graduate who was charged in September with sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, the university released results of a five-month investigation of its involvement with the program. The university said it commissioned the investigation after Perlitz was indicted.

The report detailed problems with the handling of the money by the Rev. Paul Carrier, the school’s former chaplain. It also said school officials did not learn of the sexual-abuse allegations until May 2008.

Carrier has not been charged with any crime. A message seeking comment was left yesterday with his attorney.

The Rev. Thomas Regan, who at the time was the Jesuit provincial for the New England Province, transferred Carrier in April 2006. The university did not say why Carrier was transferred or where, but Regan said the decision was “in no way based on any allegation or suspicion of sexual misconduct in connection’’ with Project Pierre Toussaint.

About $700,000 for Project Pierre Toussaint was collected by the university, primarily during daily Mass at the campus chapel, the university said. As weekly contributions increased, “the financial controls in Campus Ministry didn’t keep up,’’ university board chairman Paul J. Huston said in a statement.

Besides those donations, Fairfield directly contributed $51,000 to the project, the school said.

About $120,500 in payments to Carrier are undocumented. Of that amount, $23,000 was from university funds and $97,000 from the Campus Ministry, according to the report.

Stanley A. Twardy Jr., a former US attorney for Connecticut and a partner in Day Pitney, a Stamford law firm hired to investigate the school’s financial involvement in Project Pierre Toussaint, said funding at the chapel was autonomous.

Carrier told donors he cashed their checks, rather than wiring or otherwise sending the money to Haiti, because the “banking system is so rudimentary we need money down there,’’ Twardy said.

The university said that, in the future, charitable donations collected on behalf of outside organizations will immediately be distributed directly to the groups.

Federal authorities in Connecticut accused Perlitz, of Eagle, Colo., of enticing children at the school in Cap-Haitien into sexual acts by promising them food, shelter, cash, electronics, and shoes.

They also say he threatened to expel boys if they refused his demands.