Kristine Patico Koumentakos was a lay member of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). She attended St. Matthew Church (SMC) in Columbia, Maryland, when it belonged to the OCA’s Diocese of Washington and New York. The priest assigned to SMC was Archpriest Raymond Velencia.
Koumentakos was also employed as the executive director of St. Matthew House (SMH), a non-profit corporation which owns and operates a home for adults with physical disabilities in Columbia. SMH originated as a ministry of SMC, and Velencia served as president of SMH’s Board of Directors.
According to a complaint filed with the Office of Human Rights of Howard County, in 2006 Velencia ordered Koumentakos to take a maternity leave from SMH. Shortly thereafter he unilaterally fired her. Koumentakos sought relief on the basis of sexual discrimination (pregnancy).
In a second complaint filed with the Office of Human Rights, Koumentakos alleged that Velencia retaliated against her original complaint by filing a meritless court action against her.
The Office of Human Rights found in Koumentakos’ favor on both the employment discrimination claim and the retaliation claim. Their findings are linked below.
As Koumentakos pursued her claims with the Office of Human Rights, she said she became aware that Velencia was revealing confidentional information about her that he had obtained in the confessional and/or in private counseling. Koumentakos first pursued this complaint within the OCA. Archpriest Alexey Karlgut was sent to investigate, but refused to proceed unless Koumentakos released the OCA from liability. Koumentakos declined to sign the release.
On May 1, 2008, Koumentakos sued Velencia, along with the OCA, the Diocese of Washington and New York,* SMC and SMH. The complaint not only alleged employment discrimination and retaliation, but also that the priest had revealed information obtained in confession and/or in the course of private counseling. A copy of the complaint is linked above.
Barely a month after the lawsuit was filed, Velencia received a clergy award from Metropolitan Herman Swaiko.
In 2009 the church entities prevailed in the trial court on a motion to dismiss on first amendment grounds, although Koumentakos retained her right to appeal this ruling. However, the claims of employment discrimination and retaliation were still before the court.
In August, 2009, Orthodox Christians for Accountability (OCANews) announced that Velencia had been further honored by being elected as the clergy representative to the Metropolitan Council in the newly recreated Diocese of Washington. However, as reported by OCANews in November, 2009, Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen requested that Velencia step down from this position, which he did. The article further said that members of Velencia’s parish, following an unanimous vote, resolved to withhold their OCA dues until Paffhausen explained the reasons for this removal.
In March of 2010, Paffhausen issued an apology to Koumentakos, saying “sensitive information was improperly shared.” However, the statement did not indicate if or how Velencia would be disciplined for this impropriety.
The claims of employment discrimination and retaliation were reportedly settled for an undisclosed amount in the spring of 2010.
Additional documents from the lawsuit are linked below.