Whistleblower CEO Balko Files Suit Claiming Board Retaliation
A whistleblower lawsuit filed Feb. 27 in New York District Court claims a former CEO of the $145 million Ukrainian National FCU suffered discrimination and retaliation so severe it caused her to suffer a heart attack and default on her mortgage loan.
Plaintiff Christine Balko claims in the suit that the New York-based credit union’s board – in particular, long-time volunteer Vsevolod Salenko – objected to her reporting of federal regulatory violations to the NCUA and retaliated against her.
The rift allegedly began with Balko reporting board election bylaw and protocol violations, the purchase of prohibited investments and the misappropriation of funds by a branch manager in May 2009, according to court documents. Those documents charge that report triggered an NCUA audit that revealed an inadequate governance model, lowered the credit union’s CAMEL rating to a 4, earned it the troubled condition label and produced a Letter of Understanding from the regulator to correct findings.
Salenko, who has served as a volunteer at the credit union for more than 46 years, allegedly opposed a new NCUA-mandated governance model that stripped board members of their operational titles and duties, according to Balko.
According to the suit, by year-end, Balko’s position was eliminated and a new CEO was hired. However, Balko soon rejoined the credit union and was additionally elected to the board in March 2010.
The suit claimed infighting escalated in early 2012 after loan documents allegedly concealed a renegotiated business loan rate for a board member who was a co-signer, and also concealed that the loan would put the credit union over its 12.25% business loan to assets cap. Balko maintained she presented the loan for board approval without realizing the documents were incomplete; Salenko, serving as chairman of the supervisory committee, allegedly seized upon the action, claiming Balko had misled the board and calling for an investigation.
Balko claims she suffered a heart attack because she became so distressed about the investigation. A day later, on March 10,Balko charged Salenko (seen left) called a special board meeting that resulted in her termination. Balko was still recovering in an intensive care unit and unable to attend the meeting or answer the charges.
After losing her job, Balko claims she fell behind on her mortgage payments and credit union staff offered her a modification per NCUA guidance. Balko accepted the modification, but before the offer closed, a Salenko-led board rescinded the workout at a June 2012 board meeting.
Salenko and other volunteers named in the suit remain on the credit union’s board and supervisory committee, according to its website. Natalia Pachashynska, accused in the suit of violating NCUA regulations and credit union bylaws while a branch manager, is now the credit union’s CEO according to NCUA records and the credit union’s website.
For its part, the Ukrainian National’s financials appear to be in order. As of Dec. 31, the credit reported net worth of 9.48%, loan losses below peer and a $213,000 net profit.
Balko is seeking recovery of unpaid compensation, a mortgage modification, compensatory damages and punitive damages. –firstname.lastname@example.org