Interview with Paul Hunchak
Where do we begin?
Hunchak: As some clergy know, throughout my employment by the
OCA, I strove to uphold the integrity of
the Statute as well as the Church's other administrative
guidelines. It is no coincidence that this theme was
often emphasized in the letters, speeches, reports, and sermons
that I wrote for my superiors. So I begin with
the Report of the Chancellor to the 1996 Spring Session of the
Holy Synod of Bishops, which I wrote, and Fr.
"Several matters over the past three years involving civil litigation,
potential litigation, or the prevention
of litigation have called attention to our ChurchÕs
adherence to guidelines and procedures. Moreover, the cases
have initiated a review of the relationship between the parish,
diocese, and the church as a whole, as well as the
relevance of church-wide guidelines upon these entities.
Following the adoption of guidelines, policies, and procedures
by the various administrative bodies of
our Church--the Holy Synod of Bishops, the Metropolitan Council,
the All-American Council--it is the
responsibility of the administrative offices of the chancery
to adhere to and seek compliance with them. While
in some cases guidelines and policies are followed, in too many
others they are disregarded or compromised,
resulting in potentially unfortunate circumstances, misunderstandings,
and unnecessary legal expenses. We
realize that there are occasional exceptions; however, if exceptions
become the rule, then the guidelines and procedures must be reexamined. We humbly ask for cooperation throughout
the Church on all levels for adherence to all the guidelines, policies, procedures, and to the Statute.
Are you saying that these words from 1996 apply to the current
Stokoe: If you believe what you just quoted
is no less true now, as it was in 1996, why have you not
Hunchak: Other than inquiries by my immediate family and
subsequent employers, I haven't been asked to
comment about my employment at the OCA "chancery" or
the management of the OCA's finances until now.
Paul, for those who don't know you, what did you do in
Hunchak: After graduating from St. Vladimir's Seminary
in 1990, I joined the staff at Syosset as an Administrative
Assistant. I later spent several months at the Ecumenical
Institute in Bossey, Switzerland. From 1993-2000
I was the Assistant to the Chancellor, and from 1995- 2000,
the Secretary of the OCA. In addition, I was appointed
Secretary of the Preconciliar Commission in 1993, and advised
and assisted OCA administrative units
and boards. I resigned in April 2000.
Stokoe: Did you have
anything to do with the finances of the OCA in between
Hunchak: While my daily responsibilities did not concern
the usual financial operations, I was quite familiar
with the financial operations. As an officer of the Church
I authorized disbursements and was privy to financial
Stokoe: So you knew what was going on?
Hunchak: Yes. The pattern of financial (mis)management
outlined in Eric's (Wheeler) letters is accurate. As I
mentioned above, I signed checks, many to the AMEX accounts
Eric discusses. I learned quite a bit from the
Church's legal counsel, Jonathan Russin, in August 1999.
There was so much going on during this period. Eric had
been trying to find out for years where all the
money was going. In June 1999 John Kozey (OCA Audit Committee
Chairman) blew the whistle. As an aside, I
recall that Fr. Kondratick spent hours that summer shredding
documents from his private filing cabinet that held,
among others things, the only records of bequests given
to the OCA. It was a rather late Spring cleaning.
The All American Council in Pittsburgh in August 1999 was
so hard for me, because I knew the game
was afoot. The team of Richard Rock and William Turbey
(a co-worker dubbed them the "ecclesiastical tailors")
were running around in the background, writing letters,
arranging the cover-up, and a newly-hired Church
employee (Fr. David Brum, now Secretary to the Metropolitan)
was also writing, trying to change the Statute
behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the Council was happily going
on as if nothing was happening, because no one
knew what was really going on...
Stokoe: Let's get specific.
Wheeler admits to once smuggling large amounts of diverted
cash to Russia. He alleges
Fr. Kondratick did this more than once...
Hunchak: It was done for every trip. I am not sure how
the US Customs functions today, but I know in the
1990s it seems black outfits and religious visas did not
fit any profile, so there were no searches. In Russia,
the saying goes, cash is king, and in post-Soviet Russia,
Benjamins meant prestige. No wonder some Metropolitan
Council members always questioned the high budget lines
Stokoe: You are talking about a
total disregard not only for the OCA Statute,
but the law itself...
Hunchak: Well let's just say that during the
latter part of my employment, my supervisor and
would invoke the First Amendment, the same way others
invoke the Fifth. That's the way the Metropolitan's
"advisors" (or as the present Treasurer called them "the
Metropolitan's counselors", Messr. Rock and
Turbey), had the Chancellor set it up when too
much was being revealed. If you claim "the money" was all put
in discretionary accounts, which are ecclesiastically sequestered
by a synodal resolution, it often stops the government from pursuing the matter. The government is reluctant
to tell a Church how it can spend its money....
Just think about this scenario ...you could deposit checks
written out to the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic
Church into an account, spend it on yourself or your friends,
since "you raised the money" and are entitled to
determine its use Ð and nobody is the wiser. The government
won't determine if these funds are not being used for charitable purposes and therefore subject
to income tax. And the Church won't know the
existence of these
funds since they are "discretionary" and therefore
not subject to anyone's oversight.
that what they did?
Hunchak: They are abusing us all, and nobody
in the Church seems to care. I think the bishops,
laity really had no idea how many millions were involved;
and the priests were afraid of what the Church administration
could do to them. They were all of losing their parishes,
of being suspended, afraid for their pensions. Most of the laity just don't seem to care. Although slightly tangential to the financial issues raised
by Eric, let me offer the following account relevant to the management style practiced at Orthodox
Church in America, Inc. during the 1990's:
You see, the Orthodox Church in America, Inc. purchased
a residence for Father Kondratick - but somehow,
no record of its purchase ever appeared in the minutes
of the Metropolitan Council. Some people in the
Church knew about this transaction, except the Administrative
Committee--but surprise, surprise, this sale was never noted in any official documents of the Metropolitan Council
or thus, made known to the Church at large. In
July 1999, I became aware of secret meetings held during
the Independence Day holiday about this property.
216 Martin Drive is Fr. Kondratick's personal residence?
Hunchak: Yes. At the time, yes--officially a parsonage
according to Nassau County's property tax roles. I
wouldn't know today. A visit to the Nassau County records
office confirmed in July 1999, and regularly re-con-
firmed until my resignation in April 2000, that this property
was still owned by the Orthodox Church in America,
Inc. I do not know it's status today. Given the way the
property was purchased "under the cover of darkness"
it would not have phased me in the least if the property
was transferred to him in a similar manner. For those interested in my concern about this matter, consult
with former members of the Alaska Lands Commission about quit claim deeds. A final random thought
on this matter - as a lay employee of the OCA, I always questioned about the need to provide a housing
allowance to a person who was already provided a house and a salary....
Stokoe: Paul, how did this all come
about? How did it go so wrong?
Hunchak: During my final year at Seminary, the Orthodox
Church in America, Inc., was facing a financial crisis.
During my years of employment, I wrote several reports
for my supervisor about the Church facing a financial
crisis. Now in 2006, I learn that the Church is facing
a financial crisis. Why is this always the case? I think
answer is clear. Paraphrasing Mr. Felt ( "Deep Throat" of
Watergate fame): "Follow the money."
Paul, why did you resign?
Hunchak: In the best possible world I
would have stayed, but given the way
things were going, my role in Syosset
was diminishing. Given the fact that the scandal was ongoing,
they wouldn't/couldn't tell me much about it,
and I wasn't going to be part of it. I knew then
I would be ineffectual in whatever I tried to do.
It was no longer
the place I went to work for.... But I also knew how they
worked, how they disparage anybody who doesn't
agree with them, cooperate with them, challenges
them. So I waited until I was reappointed, and in
I convinced Fr. Bob I needed a change, as did my family.
I got out.
Stokoe: Any final comments?
Hunchak: Truth, deception, right, wrong....it is
always what the person wants to see. However, the
of a financial audit always reveals what is misaligned.
Thanks for speaking with me, Paul.