Has Swingers Palace, an alleged sex club, been operating out of a residence in North Huntingdon for the past seven years?
That possibility surfaced Tuesday at a hearing of the township zoning board to consider an appeal of the Rev. John Ondrik and his wife, Kim, for a special exception to an ordinance to allow them to operate a church out of a residence at 4500 Turner Valley Road.
Chairman Theodore Wawrzyniak said the board will consider the nearly four hours of sworn testimony by residents, township Commissioner Richard Gray, Solicitor Bruce Dice, zoning officer Keith Evers and the Rev. Ondrik.
"A decision to deny or approve the request by the Ondriks will be announced during the Oct. 7 meeting," Mr. Wawrzyniak said.
Rev. Ondrik, of Fredericktown, Washington County, says he is an ordained minister of the nondenominational adults-only Church of Spiritual Humanities, which serves "the People," not God.
Followers must be at least 21 years old to participate in the weekly service that starts at midnight on Saturdays.
Attorney Samuel S. Pangborn, who represents the couple, says his clients entered into a lease-to-purchase agreement with owner John M. Walkmeyer Jr. in February 2001.
On July 16, Mr. Evers cited Mr. Walkmeyer, who resides in the Penns Woods development, for operating a business out of a residence, a violation of a township ordinance.
That action came after township officials learned about a Web site advertisement for Swinger's Palace, owned by "John and Kim" and operating at the Turner Valley Road address.
"The Web site listed charges of $75 per couple and $50 per single person. No charge for single women," said township Planning Director Andy Blenko.
"A follow-up investigation by Mr. Evers found the house is not occupied, but determined that some activity was taking place over weekends. The investigation determined a business was being run out of the residence. On July 16, the township notified Mr. Walkmeyer by certified letter that he was in violation of a township ordinance."
"Rev. Ondrik and his wife did not defend their operation as a church until after the township sent the letter," he said.
Among 10 exhibits submitted by Mr. Dice was a photo of the Ondriks in almost transparent undergarments and an ad with a small face shot that, he said, resembled Rev. Ondrik. The exhibits were copied from the Internet, Mr. Dice told the board.
"The little picture is not me. These days, you can do wonders with a computer," Rev. Ondrik said. "The other photo is our wedding picture. It was taken in Jamaica.
"I'm not operating a sex club. Kim and I maintain a low profile. People are just scared of us."
Mr. Dice also noted that literature from Church of Spiritual Humanities offered "15 free ordinations" online.
Mr. Wawrzyniak noted that in the seven years the Ondriks have conducted midnight services at the Turner Valley residence, there have not been any complaints.
Police Chief Michael Daugherty confirmed that. "Not even one," he said. "No disturbances. No fights. Nothing."
Mr. Gray submitted petitions he said are signed by residents who oppose a special exception. About 22 of the 42 residents of Turner Valley attended the meeting.
Henry Stanley, who has lived across the road from the building for 21 years, testified that on a recent Sunday morning he found "needles and empty condom boxes" strewn about his driveway.
Mr. Ondrik confirmed during intense questioning by board member Jacqueline Willis that he purchased a "deluxe ministerial kit" for $90 online.
He was declared ordained, which allowed him to choose from among several ministerial titles.
Although he said his father was a minister and he came from an unidentified Church of Christ, Mr. Ondrick conceded he never attended a college or theological seminary.
Norm Vargo is a freelance writer.