3.18.06 From the Wall Street Journal Print Edition
Orthodox Church in America
Fires Chancellor, Sets an Audit
By SUZANNE SATALINE
March 18, 2006; Page B2
Faced with a former employee's allegations of financial mismanagement, the Orthodox Church in America has fired the church's chancellor and says it has hired outside firms to audit church finances.
Metropolitan Herman, the leader of the Orthodox Church in America, said in a statement posted on the church's Web site that the church had fired Chancellor Robert S. Kondratick of Syosset, N.Y. Father Kondratick was responsible for the financial administration of the denomination, which has about 400,000 member adherents and is based in Syosset.
The church also said that it had retained a law firm to investigate allegations and an accounting firm to audit church finances in 2004 and 2005 and monies collected through church appeals from 2001 to 2005. Rev. Paul Kucynda, acting treasurer, said Father Kondratick was fired over issues of "obedience," but declined to elaborate.
The priest's dismissal letter from Metropolitan Herman read: "Your conduct, including your refusal to follow my directive to devote yourself fully to assisting our accountants, has caused us to lose confidence in you, has created a serious lack of trust in the church community, and has left you unable to fulfill your responsibilities to the church," according to the priest's attorney, Harry H. Kutner Jr. of Mineola, N.Y. Mr. Kutner said the priest denies misusing donations or tallying large credit-card debts.
The church's announcement came six days after eight church members, all attorneys, sent a letter to the church's Metropolitan Council, warning of potential legal troubles if members didn't investigate complaints they termed "credible."
Father Kondratick is at the center of allegations of missing money, diverted cash and unaudited accounts brought by former church treasurer Eric A. Wheeler, who was fired in 1999 after complaining about the church's financial practices. In October, Mr. Wheeler drafted a memo to the Holy Synod of bishops, the church's ruling body, detailing what he claimed were long-term, repeated incidents of financial mismanagement.
Mr. Wheeler alleged misuse of millions of dollars donated by Dwayne Andreas, the former chairman of Archer Daniels Midland Co. Mr. Wheeler also accused church officers of using money to cover personal credit card bills and shortfalls in operating accounts.
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