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A spokesman for the credit union explained that Polish and Slavic planned to open four new branches in the Chicago area over the next two years. The first two branches will open late this year or early 2010. The others would follow later, he said. This will be the farthest expansion of the ethic credit union away from its Brooklyn, N.Y., headquarters though the credit union has previously opened branches in New Jersey and Long Island.Marion Ponanta, director of marketing for the credit union, explained that Polish and Slavic has seen its pool of potential new members steadily shrink as the flow of immigrants from Poland has diminished, leading the credit union to seek more members elsewhere.Further, Chicago has the largest pool of people who self-identify as having a Polish heritage or a connection to Poland. By some estimates, Ponanta said, this could be as many as one million people.Ponanta said the credit union held its most recent strategic planning session in Chicago so CU board members could view the sites for the branches and meet with the local Polish language media to introduce the credit union.“We found a very strong positive reaction,” Ponanta said. “Very enthusiastic and welcoming.”Not everyone back in New York is thrilled with the move, however. A few Polish and Slavic members have questioned whether the credit union has the resources to start the branches and whether there might already be an ethnic credit union serving Poles in Chicago. Ponanta countered that the credit union’s capital ratio of 11.25% was more than adequate for the expansion.According to the NCUA, as of June of this year, Polish and Slavic made over $6 million but the CU’s estimated corporate stabilization expense was almost $8 million, resulting in likely negative earnings for this year.“I guess I am just surprised that we are making this move at this time and in such a big way,” said Jack Bukowski, a PSFCU member and chairman of the Committee for Fair PSFCU Elections. “Do we have the money for this, and have we made certain their would even be market in Chicago for a credit union headquartered in Brooklyn? I am not so sure.”The existence of Bukowski’s committee is one sign of the leadership controversies that continue to buzz about the credit union even as it begins to make its expansion. Bukowski said he and other members started the committee when it became clear, in their eyes, that the PSFCU Board had begun to behave in ways they considered irresponsible.Bukowski cited as an example the board’s treatment of board member Krystyna Myssura, who was removed from the board. The board subsequently refused to reseat her in the face of NCUA insistence that it do so. Ponanta said lawyers from the credit union are seeking to meet with lawyers from the NCUA to resolve the dispute. Bukowski also cited examples of how the credit union, he alleged, is trying to manipulate its latest board elections.He cited one example that concerns a board member who was inexplicably not renominated. After many years as a board member during which time when he would often vote with Myssura, Board Member Tomas Bortnik was not nominated for re-election this year. Bukowski said this had never happened before, and he called Botnik’s banishment from the ballot a clear example of one faction of the CU’s board seeking to eliminate another. He also charged that fliers PSFCU tellers distribute advertised only the names and pictures of the credit union board-backed candidates and suggested that credit union members who voted for those candidates would be eligible for a prize.Ponanta acknowledged that the nominating committee had not chosen Bortnik but declined to comment further, except to note that the committee is independent of the PSFCU Board. He added, “There is no guarantee that once someone is on the board, they will be renominated.” He also pointed out the CU makes it very easy for candidates to put their names on the ballot by collecting signatures. He denied that the prize drawing was tilted toward any one candidate or candidates.“That is simply not true that the prize implies anything about getting a prize for having voted for any one person,” he declared. “It’s true that we are offering a drawing, but that is more to raise the overall level of voting.”One thing Ponanta and Bukowski did agree upon was a possible need for Polish and Slavic to reform the ways it relates to its sponsoring organizations, including its chief sponsor, the Polish and Slavic Center. Historically, the credit union has, in effect, recruited members for the center and other sponsors and collected dues on its behalf.But Ponanta said the levels of paperwork and detail involved in those relationships had grown too much for the credit union to bear and suggested that PSFCU would need to rethink them. In the case of the Polish and Slavic Center, for example, the credit union balked at doubling the dues it collected from members of the center (which were mostly its members as well) on the grounds that it would have angered members.“It’s really not appropriate for the credit union to essentially bring members to the Polish and Slavic Center or collect dues for them,” Ponanta said. “We want to have relationships with all of our sponsors, but these need to be renegotiated.”Contacted about the dispute, Bozena Kaminski, president of the Polish and Slavic Center, said the center had to increase its dues to cover expenses when the City of New York cut its payments to the center for services to the elderly that the center had provided.–[email protected]

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