Six Million Dollar Lawsuit Filed Against OCA, Others
- Title: Six Million Dollar Lawsuit Filed Against OCA, Others
Author: Mark Stokoe
Date Published: 5/3/2008
Publication: Orthodox Christians For Accountability (OCANews)
Employment Discrimination and Retaliation Alleged by Maryland Couple
Contend Priest Breached Seal Of Confession To Embarrass, Harm Them
Lack of accountability and financial misconduct have cost the OCA at
least three million dollars in the past decade. That figure may be
about to double as a six-million dollar lawsuit was filed against
Metropolitan Herman, the Orthodox Church in America, the Diocese of
Washington and New York, Fr. Raymond Velencia, the Orthodox Church of
St. Matthew (OCA), St. Matthew Housing Development, Inc., and the
Board of Directors of St. Matthew Housing Development, Inc., on
Thursday, May 1st in Howard County, Maryland.
And for the same reasons......
Allegations of Financial Misconduct
The lawsuit was brought by two former parishioners of St. Matthew's,
Kristine Patico Koumentakos and her husband, Nicholas Koumentakos.
The suit is based on charges of employment discrimination and
retaliation against Mrs. Koumentakos, the former director of St.
Matthew's House, a non-profit residence created by the parish, for
adults with physical disabilities. Fr. Velencia, whose actions lie at
the heart of the suit, is both the priest of St. Matthew's parish and
the President of the St. Matthew Housing Development. Koumentakos
claims that in late December 2005
"...Velencia wanted to get a loan amounting to an amount of
approximately 2.2 million dollars, in order to build a physical
structure next to SMH (St. Matthew's House) that would be the new
(church) building for OCSM (Orthodox Church of St. Matthew)....
Velencia was unable to get sufficient funding and wants to use St.
Matthew's as collateral for the new building. That when Velencia
approached Mrs. Koumentakos with his idea for funding, Mrs..
Koumentakos advised defendant Velencia she was unsure if it was legal
for SMH to be used as collateral because SMH was built and continues
to operate with Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds.
Mrs. Koumentakos responsibilities included the oversight and
accounting of HUD funds. Mrs. Koumentakos also advised Velencia of
his long-standing policy to never co-mingle SMH fund with OCSM
funds." Subsequently, ".. Velencia became enraged with Mrs.
Koumentakos caution for using SMH as collateral and allowed her
caution and concern to become a personal disagreement between
Defendant Velencia and Mrs. Koumentakos. On or about January 11 2006
Defendant Velencia, OCSM, and the Board of Directors of SMH learn
that Mrs. Koumentakos concerns were accurate and thus prevented
Defendant Velencia from a potential violation of Federal Laws." Soon
" ...Velencia, for the first time, began questioning Mrs. Koumentakos
Fr. Velencia fired Koumentakos in February 2006. Two St. Matthew
Housing Board members were also dismissed by Fr. Velencia as well,
and a majority of the Board subsequently resigned. Fr. Velencia
claims Mrs. Koumentakos, who had fallen late in her pregnancy (in
November 2005) and was working largely from home on a modified work
schedule, agreed to by Fr. Velencia and the St. Matthew's Board, was
no longer able to adequately fulfill her duties.
Lack of Accountability
With the St. Matthew's House Board of Director's dismantled,
Koumentakos protested to St. Matthew's parish council as well as the
local OCA Dean (Fr. Constantine White), to no avail. It was then Mrs.
Koumentakos first learned that Fr. Velencia had been violating her
confidentiality by revealing to both church members and to the St.
Matthew house board members, explicit details of abuse in her past
and subsequent treatment, confided to him in confession and
counseling, in an attempt to discredit her concerns.
An outraged Koumentakos, who felt she had been not only unjustly
terminated from her job, but was now being re-victimized by having
her darkest secrets revealed by her former employer and priest,
contacted civil and ecclesastical authorities. Koumentakos filed a
complaint with Metropolitan Herman against Fr. Velencia for "pastoral
misconduct" in January 2007. Metropolitan Herman responded to the
written complaint within 24 hours, assigning Fr. Alexey Karlgut to
investigate the matter.
According to Koumentakos Fr. Karlgut interviewed both she and her
husband on February 8, 2007. At that time they supplied him with
several written witness statements, as well as contact information
for additional witnesses. Following an extremely difficult interview,
in which Koumentakos learned Fr. Velencia had already shared with Fr.
Karlgut the details of her abuse and treatment, Karlgut asked
Koumentakos to sign a waiver releasing the OCA from any liability in
her controversy with Velencia. Koumentakos said she would consider
his request, but declined to sign at that time.
Later that same night, Fr. Velencia filed an interim "peace order"
against Koumentakos, claiming she had left threatening messages on
his voice mail. Koumentakos was made to appear in court the next day,
where the judge dismissed Fr. Velencia's complaint as lacking merit
when Koumentakos proved she could not have made the calls.
Surprisingly, Fr. Karlgut was also present at the hearing; and
following the dismissal approached the Koumentakoses with a second
request to sign a waiver. This time they refused outright.
Subsequent attempts by the Koumentakoses and their lawyers over the
next weeks to seek updates on the progress of Karlgut's investigation
were unsuccessful. Koumentakos's witnesses all reported to her that
not one of them had been contacted by Fr. Karlgut. Almost two months
later Fr. Karlgut called the Koumentakoses' lawyer and said that he
was still waiting for her signature on the waiver. He made it clear
that the OCA was not actually obligated to help the couple, since
they were "no longer members of an OCA parish".....
The Office of Human Rights Does Respond
Before Koumentakos officially complained to the OCA, in January 2007,
she had filed two discrimination actions with the Howard County
Office of Human Rights claiming wrongful termination (due to
pregnancy) in April 2006, and later one for retaliation (for having
filed the discrimination complaint) in February 2007. Fr. Velencia
was not cooperative with the investigation into the first complaint
so it took more than a year for the case to be heard. In fact,
Velencia had to be taken to court by the County Office of Human
Rights itself in March 2007 for failing to hand over the required
information. A Maryland Circuit Court Judge eventually required Fr.
Velencia to produce the needed documents, and both cases were finally
adjudicated in April 2007.
In a written report, dated April 25th, 2007, obtained by OCANews.org,
the Office of Human Rights substantiated all five of Koumentakos's
allegations that Fr. Velencia had retaliated against her for filing
discrimination charges, including her allegations that he had falsely
accused her of threatening phone messages, that he has refused to pay
outstanding business-related phone bills and that he had
sent "libelous" letters concerning Koumentakos to her former parish
In a second written report, dated May 4, 2007, obtained by
OCANews.org, the Human Rights Office substantiated all 15 of
Koumentakos's allegations regarding Fr. Velencia's actions relating
to her termination. The Office concluded tersely: "There is
reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred."
An attempt to resolve the matter in July 2007 failed. The OCA wanted
a waiver. Koumentakos wanted a letter of apology from Fr. Velencia
for breaking the seal of confession by exposing her family's secrets
to members of the St. Matthew's House Board, St. Matthew's Parish
Council and parish family. Fr. Velencia refused to write a letter.
The Koumentakos would not sign a waiver. Subsequent attempts also
The Situation Escalates
The unresolved issues festered throughout the Summer and early Fall
of 2007, until in October, an exasperated Koumentakos wrote to the
OCA, again, asking what, if anything, was being done with her claim
of "pastoral misconduct" made almost a year earlier. Fr. Velencia
sent an email as well - not only to the Synod and the Metropolitan
Council - but to OCANews.org as well - claiming that:
"It has come to my attention that I am the subject of correspondence
to you from a former parishioner and employee who is in her letters
to you attempting to destroy my professional and personal life.
Please find attached my response to her original complaint to
Metropolitan HERMAN in January of this year. Thank you for taking the
time to read it."
Members of the the Synod, the Metropolitan Council and the editor of
OCANews.org all confirm receiving Mrs. Koumentakos and Fr. Velencia's
Fr. Velencia's attachment - a letter to the Metropolitan, some 10
pages long - did not specficially address Mrs.
Koumentakos'allegations, but rather contained intimate, personal and
graphic details about Mrs. Koumentakos's abuse, her subsequent
treatment, details about her husband, and their marriage, in what may
be described as an attempt to damage her credibility and concerns.
OCANews.org will not make the contents of the email attachment
received from Fr. Velencia public, aside from what the Koumentakoses,
in their legal brief, have themselves been forced to reveal.
The OCA, through its new lawyer, Michael Genute, then asked the
Koumentakoses for 60 more days to once again review her case. An
angry and humiliated Mrs. Koumentakos, whose painful past had now
been revealed to another 39 strangers (the members of the Synod and
Metropolitan Council), not to mention given to a public website to be
"...You have asked me to be patient. Respectfully, I find that
request to be offensive.
I reached out twice to my local Deanery for help 19 months ago and
was not even given the courtesy of a response.
I reached out to the OCSM ( Orthodox Church of St Matthew) parish
council for help; they were impotent.
I reached out to the Metropolitan for help and received Fr. Alexey -
who was more interested in having me sign a waiver than investigate,
who lied point blank to my husband, who spent more time focusing on
my history ..... than the misconduct of Fr. Ray (Velencia) , and then
allowed him to escalate the issue repeatedly.
Still, I waited patiently for some sort of contact or report from Fr.
Alexey, hoping that in the end, the national church would do the
right thing, the honest thing.
What I got months later was a letter from Fr. Alexey with the obvious
intent to do more harm, to further humiliate and intimidate me. He
wrote about my refusal to sign the waiver, he misrepresented himself
as a legal professional, he stated that he found Fr. Ray to be
a "goal-oriented priest" who had been successful in building his
church, that he had been unable to substantiate the allegations I
made because "no one had come forward" - interesting choice of words
given that he refused to contact my witnesses and made no reference
whatsoever to the witness statements he received in writing.
Additionally, he wrote, "As to allegations of violation of `pastoral
confidentiality' it should be stated that in the teaching, Doctrine,
and Canonical rules, regulations, and tribunal for internal
discipline and government of the Orthodox Church no such concept
Imagine the reaction of the OCA community to those comments!
I then reached out to the entire Holy Synod and the Metropolitan
Council for help.
I received a brief letter stating that Metropolitan Herman
would "need to look further into the matters at hand".
I again reached out to the Synod and MC, indicating strongly that
such a minimal response was unsatisfactory.
I insisted that appropriate action be taken and asked for the
When will I be contacted?
Who will be conducting the review of information?
In what manner will this be done?
When will the review be complete and when will appropriate action
These questions remain unanswered by the OCA or your representatives,
yet you ask me for my patience.
I am confident that you can understand why this is unacceptable to
" I have begged all involved for help, for intervention for the last
time. I will not do it again."
The Koumentakoses are now seeking a jury trial and $6 million. Fr.
Karlgut's desired waiver is now moot. The Metropolitan Council now
has yet another major legal matter before it. And this coming week
Fr. Velencia welcomes Metropolitan Herman to St. Matthew's parish in
Columbia, Maryland, to consecrate the new $2.2 million church
building which gave rise to the whole affair.
A copy of the complaint, in full, is available at Pokrov.org.