By Alex Davidson
A Queens judge has ruled the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn must pay a year's salary to the Ozone Park principal who was placed on unpaid leave after she made allegations of financial mismanagement and sexual assault against the then pastor.
Judge Duane Hart in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens ordered the diocese to pay $50,000 to Barbara Samide April 9 in one of the first phases of her civil trial against church officials. Samide is seeking $5 million in damages against the diocese, leaving $4.95 million to be paid, said her lawyer, Michael Dowd.
“The diocese admitted for the first time that [Samide] is indeed the principal of the school,” he said. “This is a big win for us.”
Dowd said Hart left open the question of whether Samide could actually resume her position at St. Elizabeth's Parish Church School. He said he was unsure if Samide would go back to the parochial school at 86th Street and Atlantic Avenue.
Dowd said the judge had imposed a gag order in the case, essentially prohibiting Samide and the diocese from commenting on specifics of the litigation.
Frank DeRosa, spokesman for the diocese, said staff attorneys have ordered a copy of the transcript of last week's hearing and intend to review it.
“The attorneys are considering appealing the order,” DeRosa said.
Samide initiated the lawsuit in June against the Rev. John Thompson, 50, the pastor of St. Elizabeth's, accusing him of financial mismanagement of church funds, sexual assault and sexual abuse, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The suit also named the diocese, which covers Brooklyn and Queens, and its head, Bishop Thomas Daily.
Thompson cut a deal with the district attorney and was allowed to pay a smaller amount than Samide had accused him of stealing.
Samide, who still remains popular with parents and students at the school, was put on unpaid leave in September by the diocese three months after filing the suit.
The case prompted the DA's office to investigate her accusations against Thompson, who resigned in March 2002 and then pleaded guilty Oct. 29 to stealing $95,940 in parish funds. He was sentenced to five years' probation.
Thompson, who became pastor of St. Elizabeth's in 1997, stole the parish funds to pay for an Infiniti car lease, trips with a gay lover to Mexico and Florida and other personal expenses between Aug. 4, 1998 and April 1, 2002, Brown said. He lives in Rockaway.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.