Sikh Temple claims ‘no shred of evidence’ donations were mishanded

The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin has rejected allegations by a victim of the 2012 massacre that donations intended to help those who suffered have been misused.

The temple’s board of directors issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting the assertion by Santokh Singh, a former priest, who believes he should have received a larger share.

“He has no shred of evidence, even suspicion, to say something like that,” said Kulwant Dhaliwal, who succeeded the slain Satwant Singh Kaleka as president of the Oak Creek temple.

Amardeep Kaleka, whose California-based film company raised about $277,400 for the victims through a crowdfunding site, voiced similar frustration.

“This is the same priest that my father saved when he attacked the gunman,” said Kaleka, who is running for the 1st District Congressional seat held by Republican Paul Ryan. “We have all done our best to try to help him.”

Satwant Kaleka was among six worshippers killed when white supremacist Wade Michael Page went on a deadly rampage at the temple in August 2012. Six others were wounded, three of them critically, before Page fatally shot himself.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations poured in from around the world to the temple and other fund-raising accounts set up in the aftermath of the tragedy.

The Sikh Temple engaged attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who administered victim compensation funds after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the BP oil spill and other high-profile tragedies, to oversee the distribution of about $946,000 — including the $277,000 raised by Kaleka — to Page’s victims, according to Dhaliwal.

About 24 families, plus two police officers, were compensated. He declined to discuss amounts, but Kaleka said payments ranged up to $119,000. All the money has been distributed, and the board said no one else is complaining.

Santokh Singh received about $70,000, but feels he should have been given more than the families of those killed because he cannot work and continues to suffer, said Santok Singh’s attorney, Christopher Stawski.

“They’re dead; they’re not suffering. And he’s going to suffer for the rest of his life,” said Stawski. “He wants what’s fair.”

Singh does not speak English. He had played the tablas — the ritual drum — during worship services. On the day of the shooting, he had been in the temple’s living quarters with at least one other priest and Satwant Kaleka when they heard gunshots and women screaming.

Page fatally shot Kaleka and the other priest, Prakash Singh. Santokh Singh was wounded in the abdomen. He ran from the room clutching his belly as Page chased him through the temple hallway. He escaped the building and was found bleeding on the lawn of a nearby resident, who called 911. He ultimately underwent two surgeries for a gunshot wound that penetrated his chest, diaphragm, stomach and liver.

Both Dhaliwal and Stawski say Singh can no longer play the tablas, and that his position as a temple priest has been given to someone else. The temple’s insurance company has cleared Singh to work, but Stawski said another doctor has determined that he is not able. He said Singh also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stawski said Singh has no way to earn a living, and does not qualify for food stamps, BadgerCare or other government programs, and has received nothing from the state’s victim compensation fund. He said Singh needs another surgery, as a result of the shooting, but that he has no way to pay for it.

Singh has asked the temple, through his attorney, for an accounting of how much was given to each recipient of the temple funds. Temple leaders have refused, saying that is private. They have, however, made available federal income tax forms that account for the donations and disbursement.

The situation has strained the relationship between Singh, who continues to worship there, and others in the community, said Dhaliwal.

“People are very upset,” he said of the suspicions raised by Singh. “He is harming the good name of the gurudwara (the place of worship).”


Source: The Journal Sentinel

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