Kucynda Bids Farewell
in Bombshell Email To Synod, Council
The OCA announced that a new Treasurer began work today, November 13, 2007. But it was the former Acting Treasurer, Fr. Paul Kucynda, who is making news. In a final self-justifying email to the Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Council as he departed office last Friday, Kucynda wrote:
"As I conclude my work as an officer of the Church and as such, a member of the MC (Metropolitan Council), I feel compelled to share with you some of my deepest concerns. Comments are being made from time to time by MC members who were involved in the Administrative Committee (AC) of the MC in past years. Comments have appeared that seem to imply that the Reorganization Task Force (RTF) was deliberately created to replace the AC. Anyone who knows how the RTF developed, received their charter from the Metropolitan to directly assist him specifically regarding administrative structures, staffing and the like, knows that this is far from the truth. Anyone familiar with the workings of both groups knows full well that the AC and RTF are at opposite ends of the spectrum."
The Committee and the Task Force
Kucynda's remarks were occasioned by Council member criticisms, primarily from Dr. Alice Woog, of Deacon John Zarras and the Reorganization Task Force which she characterized as a "runaway" committee, seeking to usurp the Metropolitan Council's authority. Fr. Kucynda bristled at the comparison. Fr. Kucynda's reply offers the closest look yet into the context in which the scandal unfolded by one who participated in it from the beginning. Kucynda writes:
"Because I was a former member of the Administrative Committee of the MC, I've spent many waking moments reflecting on its dysfunctional approach to management where the control of information distorted the facts in matters that were being addressed. I am ashamed to have been a part of this committee which was not always accountable to the MC as it should have been. Manipulation is a very powerful tool that transformed a purposeful AC at the time into a means to an end with mixed motives."
Kucynda points out he was not alone in participating in the "dysfunction". "While it was happening," he says pointing a finger at Woog, "even those whose thoughts I am now challenging were also drawn into the dysfunction." Dr. Woog herself was a long-time member of the Administrative Committee as well.
Kucynda then draws the distinction between the old Administrative Committee and the new Reorganization Task Force, justifying the latter, while condemning the former: "On the other hand, I have had the fortunate experience of working with a new crop of volunteers who came forth after March 2006. As it turns out, they are sincerely working to assist in redirecting the administrative life of the Central Church Administration with prayer, thought and expertise as initially requested by the Metropolitan. I must confess that I am humbled by their commitment and sincerity. For those of you who are not aware, the Reorganization Task Force members have willingly gathered without remuneration from well over a 100 mile radius for more than a year on a near weekly basis. One of the most essential among them is a volunteer who resides in California . His participation by email and telephone has been of immense value concerning issues related to salary, benefits, and other personnel matters. The accusations and innuendos at the heart of the current discussion concerning the methods and motives of the Task Force and in particular, our Transition Officer, strikes me as being extremely disingenuous. To those who can be numbered among the alleged "most concerned" about the "legal status issue" what are your suggestions or proposals to resolve this matter? Why do you not offer solutions? Are you avoiding criticism? It is very easy to be critical, accusatory and provocative. It's another to be a part of the solution."
The "legal status issue" referred to by Fr. Kucynda concerns the immigration status of the new OCA Secretary Paul Bodnar who is a Canadian citizen. ransition Officer Dn. John Zarras confirmed to the MC meeting in October that not all of Bodnar's INS paperwork had been completed. At that meeting, Bodnar was therefore seated as an "observer", without having the right to vote accorded by statute to the OCA Secretary. It has been widely suggested on the internet in the past weeks that Bodnar was working in the U.S. at the OCA prior to possessing the necessary papers to do so. These suggestions have been fueled by the sudden disappearance of his photo from the OCA website, the appointment of Fr. Garklavs as the "official" OCA secretary at the last Council meeting in June, and unanswered questions about how Bodnar has been paid. Just last week it was rumored that staff members were told by Reorganization Task Force members to tell Homeland Security investigators that Bodnar has never worked at Syosset - although he has been there for months. The OCA has refused to comment on these questions, citing instead "technical difficulties" given a backlog of work visa applications.*
Questions by Council members to clarify Bodnar's status then led to this email by Fr. Kucynda.
A Farewell Plea
Fr Kucynda's email continues:
"The 'we/they' approach to conflict resolution contained in the most recent posts circulated among you are written as if anyone on the MC who dares to openly support the leadership of the Metropolitan is a "they" and those who oppose him are among the "we". Until every member of the MC is willing to transform the "we/they" into an "us", you might as well declare defeat with the evil one being the winner."
In short, Kucynda does not answer the question as to Bodnar's legal status, attempting instead, to turn the question into a question of unity. He asks the Synod and the Council:
"Please ask yourself where your heart is. Without an open and transformed heart, do not expect to receive God's favor, neither corporately nor personally. Jesus clearly teaches us, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they (and they alone) shall see God."
Anticipating criticism for such remarks, Fr. Kucynda provides a rejoinder in advance: "To those of you who consider my comments as 'pious preaching' or 'rambling' for that matter, I simply say, so be it."
Fr. Kucynda then concludes with a theme he has often spoken of in private and in public as his justification for his twenty-plus years of service in Syosset as Treasurer, Secretary of the OCA, Secretary to the Metropolitan and Acting Treasurer during what are now revealed to be troubled times. He writes:
"God knows my heart. His judgment is the only judgment that concerns me now and in the future. I hope that you keep His judgment in the forefront of your mind, for He knows your heart as well. 'God will not be mocked.' I wish to all of you a good and lengthy spiritual sojourn until that day comes when you too will face the judgment not of men but of our Lord and Savior according to His standards and not yours or mine."
And in his final wish he writes:
"I pray for all of you and for our bishops as well as you work together to administer the life of our beloved OCA.
Father Paul "
As revealing as Fr. Kucynda's personal remarks are, as interesting as they are as to the mindset that occasioned the scandal and the leadership perspective that has allowed it to continue for more than two years, Kucynda's self-justification is not what has caught the Synod's and Council's attention. It was the opening admission by Fr. Paul, and the memo attached to the email, that has Council members raising new questions.
Fr. Kucynda's revelation may just point the way beyond the "firewall" that has plagued all efforts to get to the bottom of this scandal for the past two years. It may just be the beginning of the end of the mantra "It was all Kondratick" that Metropolitan Herman and Kucynda himself so carefully tended these past two years. It appears that this was a parting gift to the OCA, from its former Acting Treasurer.
This is how the email to the Council and Synod began:
"The purpose of this email is to bring to your attention a matter which I believe should be of serious concern by the MC."
Then comes the bombshell sentence: "The issue is that of undocumented 'excess benefits' that may have been received by former employees of the OCA. This matter IS in the competence of the MC according to our Statute and DOES require your attention."
(Emphasis in the original).
The key word here is 'employees' in the plural. Not 'employee' in the singular. If employees received 'excess benefits' it could not have been Kondratick alone who was responsible, or culpable, for the scandal. For the first time Fr. Kucynda appears to be admitting others were involved and he wanted everybody on the Synod and Council to know it.
"The attached document was prepared and distributed at the June 2007 MC meeting. At the meeting, if I recall correctly, it was glossed over as if it were not something the MC needs to be concerned about. If you are new to the MC and do not know of this document, or if you haven't taken the time to read it, I urge you to do so now."
The memo attached by Fr. Kucynda was written by a law firm in June 2007. It details already known accusations leveled against Kondratick including:
• That for a considerable number of years church funds were used to pay family credit card bills, as well as monthly living expenses for himself and other members of his family.
• More than $130,000 in family credit card bills and other personal living expenses were paid by check with Church funds.
• Substantial sums of money received for the work of the Church by Kondratick were not deposited into the regular accounts of the Church.
• In other instances, money from the general and restricted accounts of the Church were turned into cash. For most of these transactions, there is no written documentation. This includes funds received for distribution to victims of 9/11 as well as other charitable causes.
What is important is that the Memo begins with two assumptions. The first is that the OCA is a tax-exempt religious body. The second assumption is "Father Kondratick was the only party receiving excess benefit transactions."
This is indeed the famous " firewall" so long spoken of by supporters of Kondratick, as well as by others who criticize both Kondratick and Syosset. It is this assumption that has prevented any investigation beyond Kondratick's role in the scandal, the assumption that prevented the Special Commission from being allowed to investigate all the data collected by Proskauer Rose or to interview witnesses. It is the assumption that has guided the whole unfolding of the scandal; and it is just that - an assumption. In light of Fr. Kucynda's email, it is an assumption that needs to be revised.
The Memo Continued
The Memo continues by discussing potential tax consequences of the OCA scandal. It states that the OCA is in little danger of losing its tax exempt status. It does list other concerns though. Although the facts seem to evidence that the Metropolitan Council did not participate in the 'excess benefit transactions' by commission, "..the size, extent and duration of the excess benefit transactions that took place presents a cause for concern." Since allegations against Kondratick began as early as 1992 and extend through 2005 (during which time over two million dollars was used by Kondratick) the Church should be prepared to show that it "was not negligent in their failure to act to stop the embezzlement". In short, the concern is that the government might argue that those in charge were asleep at the wheel, and thus as culpable as Kondratick.
To counter this prospect, the Memo then outlines the steps taken by the OCA in the past two years to show they were not participants in the 'excess benefits', but victims. Specifically,
• The OCA hired the law firm Proskauer Rose and accounting firm Lambrides, Lamos, Moulthrop, LLP to help to investigate any financial misdeeds and establish a new operation plan.
• The OCA created an organization task force designed to develop an organization structure and staffing level that improved the efficiency, effectiveness and oversight and reduced the expenses for the OCA Central Administrative Office.
• The OCA started a church court proceeding against Father Kondratick claiming misappropriation of church funds.
• Nor did the efforts stop there. The OCA also began paying off any debts it had in order to put itself in better financial standing. The implication is that the government should look favorably on such efforts.
The Memo concludes by pointing out one additional problem: the OCA should, if asked, be prepared to prove that the above actions were taken in a timely manner. It is alleged that Kondratick was participating in misappropriations as far back as 1992, while the re-organization to address these issues was only developed in 2006. Once again, there is concern that those in charge were asleep at the wheel...
This is not the time or place to discuss Fr. Paul Kucynda's service to the OCA over the past twenty years as a member of the Chancery in multiple and varied capacities. Whatever history decides, there is no question that his actions in the past month - by not stopping the release of the Summary Report such that it was posted as planned (albeit quickly removed), and by now calling into question the assumptions of the Memo - Fr. Kucynda has done a fitting final service to the Church towards helping the OCA uncover the truth about the scandal in all its dimensions.
Fr. Paul's actions raise some major questions:
Who knew about Kondratick's actions and when?
Who else received excessive benefits?
These questions cannot be ignored, nor remain unanswered if the scandal is ever to be resolved.
- Mark Stokoe
• In a posting on OCA.org this afternoon, new Treasurer Fr. Michael Tassos spoke to this issue. He writes:
"With regard to payments to Mr. Bodnar, it was brought to my attention that Mr. Bodnar is still awaiting the transfer of his I-94 multiple entry permit from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco to the OCA and that certain monthly amounts have been advanced to him. I reviewed the signed notes for each check that Mr. Bodnar has received. As far as I can see there is nothing that is being done here that is either illegal or unethical. The only other point that remains is the subject of an appropriate amount of interest to charge. I have spoken to everyone, including Mr. Bodnar, and suggested that we charge a reasonable amount of interest as this is an IRS requirement."
He also wrote about "excess benefits". Fr. Michael stated:
"The second issue has to do with "Excess Benefits" for some prior members of the chancery. The IRS requires employers to calculate the amount of 'compensation' paid or given in some other fashion to employees. Examples of 'Excess Benefits' include perks such as vacation trips, forgiving loans or advances, club memberships, dues, payment of certain types of insurance policies, etc. This is not a simple issue to tackle because the recipient must also pay for their portion of any employment taxes related to such benefits. Furthermore, if we determine that certain amounts were not included as compensation and should have been, we will need to go back and amend the W-2's for these individuals, the quarterly payroll tax reports, and the annual reports to both the IRS and the Social Security administration."
Once again, the term used is "individuals". Once again, a crack appears in the firewall...