New Year Begins With Old Lawsuit
The year 2007 ended with an announcement by Syosset that Elizabeth Kondratick, wife of the deposed former OCA Chancellor, Robert Kondratick, had
re-filed a lawsuit against the OCA some two weeks earlier. On December 31st, Syosset revealed to members of the Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Council that: “On December 19, 2007, Elizabeth Kondratick filed a Complaint in the Supreme Court
of Nassau County against the Orthodox Church in America. The legal papers were served here last week. The lawsuit is similar to the one that Robert and Elizabeth Kondratick initiated, and then withdrew,
in October, 2006. That is, Mrs. Kondratick claims that the OCA owes her $250,000 plus interest, based on an alleged agreement between Robert Kondratick and Metropolitan Theodosius, made in 2002.” In its announcement to the Synod and Council Syosset concluded that “After the New Year, legal counsel
will have to be retained by the OCA to respond to the complaint.”
At the heart of the lawsuit is a promissory note, drawn up shortly before Metropolitan Theodosius left office in the Spring of 2002. It was signed by the Primate, Metropolitan Theodosius, the Treasurer of the OCA, Fr. Dimitri Oselinsky, the Secretary of the OCA, Fr. Paul Kucynda, and the Administrative Committee of the Metropolitan Council: Fr. Eugene Vansuch, Fr. Gregory Safchuk, Judge Harold Kalina and Dr. Alice Woog. The note was later notarized by Ms. Anna Luckman in New Jersey. (Read the note itself here.) Since the time the note was signed, all the officers have been replaced, and the Administrative Committee has been disbanded.
The note’s existence was first made known to the Synod and Council in September 2006 when the Kondraticks originally filed this lawsuit seeking payment. The suit was withdrawn in October 2006, the day after then-Father Kondratick was assigned a parish in Venice, Florida. In June 2007 Kondratick was deposed from the priesthood, and in December 2007 his appeal for reinstatement was denied. The lawsuit was then refiled in December 2007.
In late 2006 the Metropolitan Council was informed by Proskauer Rose that the note was probably not enforceable. Among the reasons given was that there is nothing indicating a contract or agreement between the Metropolitan Council and the Kondraticks to do the repairs/remodeling to the Chancellor’s residence as the Kondraticks have claimed. Moreover, according to New York State law, an administrative committee cannot bind a corporation by any action delegated to the membership of its full board (such as taking out loans, or purchasing properties....) (Chapter 35, S712-(1).) Additionally, there is a specific prohibition against making loan to Corporate Officers. (Ch.35-S716.)
According to Kondratick’s internet supporters, though, “Three attorneys, members of the NY State Bar, examined all this history and the Note itself, and determined that this was (I quote) a ‘slam dunk’ for Mtka Bette.” Thus they claim “ The OCA is legally and ethically bound to repay her now not only the $115K as they first agreed, but also a 9% annual compound interest going back to 1991..” The courts will determine whether or not the note is valid/legitimate/enforceable, but there is no denying the compound interest rate was certainly a good deal for the Kondraticks - given that interest rates on bank deposits hovered below 2% and interest rates on CD’s were less than 5% for most of the decade.
It would appear, however, that money is not the only purpose of this lawsuit. Consider the following recent statement by Kondratick supporter, monk James Silver, on the Orthodox Forum:
“Perhaps they’ll be able to work out a proper settlement without going into open court, but if MetH (Metropolitan Herman) and his godless gang persist in this evil, I promise you that he and Met. Theodosius and all the officers of the OCA for the last twenty years or so will be required to give testimony under oath in court, and Fr Bob will be vindicated while they are held accountable for their crimes and are condemned to civil penalties as well as the moral censure they’ve already earned.”
If the Kondraticks seek “vindication” by reinstituting the lawsuit, they have also run the risk of raising new questions about their own status. It has been widely reported that the first of the ten recommendations of the Special Commission charged with investigating the scandal was the immediate suspension of then-Father Kondratick by his Bishop. What has not been as widely reported is the reason for doing so. The Commission based its recommendation not only on evidence of widespread financial misconduct, but also on the conviction that failure to remove Kondratick “immediately” from any and all access to Church funds would demonstrate fiduciary irresponsibility on the part of the Synod and Metropolitan Council - thus “significantly” increasing the liability risks of the OCA.
That concern remains as valid in January 2008 as it was in March 2007, nine months ago. And yet, Robert Kondratick, now a deposed priest, remains in charge of all aspects of his former OCA parish (except for conducting divine services) as “parish outreach coordinator” - and is still responsible for Church funds. One must legitimately question why this is allowed to be the case, if Syosset is concerned about fiduciary responsibility as they now claim to be? With the Metropolitan Council now being asked to pay for even more lawyers, the topic is sure to be discussed at the next Metropolitan Council meeting.