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Priest at church with alleged thefts reassigned

| Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004

Three weeks after telling parishioners that money had been stolen from collections, the pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church in Green Tree has been reassigned.

The Rev. Harry Nichols said Monday that he will become administrator of St. Patrick-St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in the Strip District on Oct. 25. A new pastor will be appointed for St. Margaret's, which serves 1,500 families.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Nichols, who had been pastor at St. Margaret for nine years. He declined to comment on the reasons for his reassignment.

Nichols told parishioners Sept. 19 the church had discovered that a substantial amount of money had been stolen over several years and that the investigation had been turned over to the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office.

The Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said he was unaware of Nichols' reassignment.

St. Patrick-St. Stanislaus Kostka, a parish with worship sites on 21st Street and Liberty Avenue, has been without a pastor since the retirement of the Rev. Tom McKenna earlier this year.

Nichols' transfer comes more than a month after church finance director George Weber was fired. Weber has said he had no knowledge of the theft and that he was not given a reason for his dismissal. Weber's lawyer, Regis Schnippert, said Weber has since filed an appeal with the diocese to get his job back.

"As the process unfolds, the public is going to learn that Mr. Weber had no involvement or responsibility for these alleged thefts," Schnippert said.

Amy Caldwell, a former housekeeper for the parish, is under investigation by the District Attorney's Office in connection with the alleged thefts. Caldwell, of Charleroi, Washington County, also is being investigated by state police in connection with a fire in May that destroyed her home in Washington, Washington County.

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