These are our leaders

(Image from Facebook)

Scott Kunka is Mayor Snoop Lukey Luke’s director of the Office of Management and the budget director of the Finance Department. I have long pronounced his name as Kuhn-kah.  It looks like kuhn-kah.  Like funk or junk. Kunk. A.

Apparently, his Ukranian heritage means it is actually pronounced KOON-KAH.

Who knew?

Anyway, I guess one too many times after hearing his name mispronounced by City Council President Darlene Harris during meetings, Scott KOON-KAH fired off this email to Darlene Harris, all of city council, The Dread Lord Zober, and others.

Marty Griffin read this email on air and I obtained a copy from NONE OF YA’ DAMN BUSINESS is her/his name.

—–Original Message—–
From: Kunka, Scott
Sent: Thu 9/15/2011 9:31 AM
To: Harris, Darlene
Cc: City Council Members; Qureshi, Cathy; Mazefsky, Gabe; Zober, Yarone; Osterman, Kim
Subject: Ethnic Mocking?

Councilperson Harris,

I have come to expect your hostility and attempts at bullying when I come to the Council table.  Though I often silently recoil at the insolence you so clearly have for me, my staff, your own colleagues, and the venue of City Council itself, I am strong enough to take it.

However, I am drawing a line at your mocking of my last name. Though par for the course, it was appalling to me, my family, friends and colleagues.

To repeatedly do so in public and on television is absolutely gratuitous and disrespectful to my family name. My late father was a proud American and equally as proud of his Ukrainian heritage. That you have insulted his memory is unforgiveable.

Some might think it rose to the level of ethnic harassment. Aren’t we beyond the days of disparaging people whose last name ends in a vowel?  It makes me wonder what other ethnic hostilities you harbor beneath your thin public veneer.

I have the right, and demand that you pronounce my name correctly, and without sarcasm. Or if you are unable or unwilling to do so, please refer to me as Director in the future.


No, Internet, this is not a joke email. This is a real email sent within the City of Pittsburgh’s high-level administration. Why do I share this with you?

Because I hate Scott KOON-KAH, The Director?  Not at all. I don’t know him from Gabe Mazefsky.

I share it with you for several reasons:

1. If mispronouncing a last name is “ethnic harassment,” I’d like to publicly apologize to Zach Galifianakis. Or as I call him Zach Gale-ee-fie-A-nah-KISS. Sorry, bro.

2. I feel kind of stupid and diversity-etiquette-challenged that I wasn’t aware that a name ending in a vowel meant it was a more ethnic last name than those ending in a consonant. Did you know that?! But then again, my last name ends with a Z from a Mexican family name and my maiden name ended with a D for a Syrian name. SO I DON’T EVEN KNOW NOW! Just to be safe, I’m sorry Dan On-oh-rate-oh! I think I need to take one of those diversity sensitivity classes that some corporations offer. I’ll hug it out with all the people whose names I’ve botched the pronunciation of. We’ll cry. We’ll forgive. We’ll move forward. (ding!)

3. Do you realize, Internet, how awful the city administrators’ relationships among each other are if one member is so suspicious and wary of another that he views the mispronunciation of his last name as ethnic harassment to the point that he would email this ridiculousness to everyone and their mother to make the complaint?!

4. The Director, however, in this email, does sound like he’s a few french fries short of a steak salad, if ya knowwhaimeen.

5. Pro tip: NEVER ever ever send this kind of message via email to a bunch of city council people, some of whom don’t even like you, and certainly not to the The Dread Lord himself, who I hope has more important things to deal with like slowly stroking his evil cat (that’s not a euphemism), because the Internet is FOREVER and bloggers like me will put that ridiculousness out there for everyone to read and point at and laugh at and to say to themselves, ARE WE PAYING FOR THIS SHIT?!

Best to just etch the message in goat blood on her office walls next time, Director.

6. From now on, everyone, everywhere, in all things, shall refer to Scott Kunka as The Director.

It is now so.


That is church.


  1. Burghthing
    September 18, 2011 10:56 am

    This is the type of petty ridiculousness you get with a one party, old boy, network running the town. Instead of focusing on real issues that competition would force them to address, they spend their time (and our money) on stupid things to make themselves feel bigger.

    Shame on us for falling for it over and over and over.

  2. Karen
    September 18, 2011 12:02 pm

    “Refer to me as Director???” Lord help us all.

  3. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    September 18, 2011 12:47 pm

    Is it ethnic intimidation if people continue to spell my last name with a “Y” instead of an “I”? I want to check before I shoot of an e-mail.

  4. Send It In Yarone!
    September 18, 2011 12:49 pm

    The motley crew of ego-driven, misguided and out of touch children running city hall has gotta go.

  5. pghsciencenerd
    September 18, 2011 12:53 pm

    Wow, just wow. You’d have thought by the tone of this email that members of City Council referred to THE DIRECTOR as Scott Poopy-Pants in public meetings, mocked his name by singing annoying songs about him on the PAT bus, and wrote nasty things about him on the walls of the bathrooms in the City-County Building. That is SO fifth grade, people.

    Sure, people tend to mispronounce my Czechoslovak-derived last name, but I tend to believe that’s because 1) Americanization removed the accent marks; and 2) Eastern European languages have odd rules of pronunciation, of which most people simply are unaware. No hostilities, Scott. Sometimes names are just hard to pronounce. A friendly correction would suffice here.

    That aside, I think that this man has no idea what actually constitutes ethnic harassment. Clearly there are serious and shameful examples, past and present, but could someone please remind this man of the Homestead Steel Strike? I think that having Pinkerton Guards shooting at Eastern European immigrants on the shores of the Monongahela River surely constitutes a more serious case of ethnic harassment than Darlene Harris mispronouncing his name.

    I’m pretty sure a group of 8th graders could act in a more civil manner than most people in city government at this point. Shame on you, The Director.

  6. Zach
    September 18, 2011 12:57 pm

    Brilliant Gee-Knee. Simply brilliant.

  7. Chloe
    September 18, 2011 12:58 pm

    I watched the Council meeting live which prompted the resulting huff. What a class act from the “Directer”. Don’t worry, the Rev.” I told you so” BurgGESS apologized up one side and down the other for every slight, real and imagined. The whole victim, passive-agressive game they play is so tedious that it’s a wonder the Lukie-Lukes can find there way to work in the morning. Grant Street is as petty as the Pittsburgh School Board “victims”.
    You’re right, we’re all just one vowel away from total anarchy and mayhem.
    Allow me to sign off in a huff and a snitt.

  8. celeryan
    September 18, 2011 1:57 pm

    Good grief!! People spell my first name wrong all the time, but I don’t get all “snarky” about it!! I actually know someone with the last name of “Kunka” and they do not pronounce is as KOON-kah; they pronounce it as Kun-ka. I believe that is the more common pronunciation too. That said, however, someone needs to get his priorities straight. Ignoring the mis-pronunciation of his name and being nothing but professional in his dealings with that person will usually lead to a cessation of the bad behavior (if that is really the case). If not, who cares???? Srsly!!!!!

  9. Pittsburgh Tom
    September 18, 2011 3:23 pm

    I find this interesting not only because I also have a Syrian last name ending in D (which most people mispronounce), but also because I work in an office where over half my co-workers have “foreign” names. There’s a unspoken rule that you don’t be too sensitive about how names are pronounced. People try their best & if everyone got huffy when their names got mangled, nothing wouldever get done.

  10. Duncan
    September 18, 2011 5:38 pm

    Someone needs to tell “The Director” to grow his whiney ass up. As someone who has lived his whole life having people mis-pronounce his last name, all I have to say is, act like an adult.

    By the way, if you would publish his email address (’cause I’m too lazy to search for it even though I know I could find it somewhere in da Burgs maze of websites) I could tell him this myself.

  11. Magnus Patris
    September 18, 2011 6:43 pm

    Speaking for all Americans of Ukrainian decent, this guy is a giant horse’s ass. First off, What Ukrainian names his son Scott?!? My last name is Ukrainian and NOBODY pronounces it correctly the first time. I pronounce it for them and about 60% of my friends remember to pronounce it correctly. Some still don’t and that’s OK. I don’t feel like they disrespect me when they do it, I just have an unusual last name. So to Mr. Kunka, here’s a piece of friendly advice from one hunky to another. “Don’t get your dupa in an uproar! Yoi Bozhe Miloste!

  12. Butcher's Dog
    September 18, 2011 6:53 pm

    @Magnus: care to translate the last three words for the rest of us? Just, you know, as a matter of clarity and all.

  13. Magnus Patris
    September 18, 2011 6:59 pm

    @Butcher’s Dog; loosely translated as “OH, MY FREAKIN’ GOD!”; loosely.

  14. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    September 18, 2011 7:28 pm

    I worked for someone once who continually called me by the wrong first name. Each time he would call me by the incorrect name, I would just say my name, he’d go “so sorry” and go on with the discussion. It did get annoy after going through this routine five times a day so one day I took a “Hello My Name is” name tag, wrote my name phonetically and as a pictogram. He laughed when he saw it, but he also never called me by the wrong name again.

  15. bucdaddy
    September 18, 2011 8:31 pm

    Now that English is the official language of Pennsylvania, Mr. Kunka is going to have to live with the English pronunciation rather than the Ukranian pronunciation.

    He can’t complain; it’s the law. I ain’t going to jail so Mr. kunk-a can be happy.

    Also, people have tried to slip an e into my last name for, like, forever. I may hate being called bucdaddey but I don’t get all pissy about it.

  16. spoon
    September 18, 2011 8:39 pm

    I’m not listening to anyone on how to pronounce his name until the Pee Gee Plus tells me.

  17. Ginny's Dad
    September 18, 2011 8:44 pm

    He should have just confronted Ms. Harris in private.

  18. Old North Sider
    September 18, 2011 9:27 pm

    Used to work in City Hall when His Honor or rather the “Director” worked for City Council as their budget director, I believe 3/4 of City Personnel mispronounced his name….I never heard him correct anyone. I feel badly that I unknowingly insulted him and disrespected his father all for years. I guess I am going strait to Hell.
    @Chloe — Hang out on Grant Street and you will see the Mayor’s bodyguards meeting him at the corner of Grant and Fourth nearly every morning at 10 AM ~ that’s about the time he rolls into/reports to work. ;)

  19. 2fargone
    September 18, 2011 9:38 pm

    I can tell you from first hand experience that these types of occurences are the norm, not the exception.

    The first time I was in a meeting with the Public Safety Director I referred to him by his first name. I then had to endure a 20 minute profanity laced tirade; told that I would be fired if I ever addressed him as anything other than chief or director. Meglomania runs rampant on Grant St.

  20. Mayonnaise
    September 18, 2011 9:39 pm

    @Old North Sider — You mean on days he actually shows up for work? If the local media wasn’t so lazy…

    One would think the “Director” would be more worried about solving the city’s financial woes than something so trivial. But this is what you get when a political hanger-on is appointed to one of the most important positions in city government.

  21. bluzdude
    September 18, 2011 10:34 pm

    My last name ends in a vowel, but it’s silent. Does that count? I need to know if I’m being condescended to and repressed. I could use a big fat payday…

  22. Kayaker
    September 18, 2011 11:34 pm

    Perfect example why I never send an angry email the same day I write it. I let it sit over night then read it again and decide if I still want that said. I usually end up deleting it or doing a major edit.

  23. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    September 18, 2011 11:55 pm

    And all this time I thought you pronounced your name “Blooz-doo-dee”, Mr Bluzdude.

  24. Craig
    September 19, 2011 7:17 am

    In a city with so many wonderful names ending in every letter of the alphabet, it’s normal to mispronounce a name, the first time. In a city that is considered most livable and most friendly, it’s rude to continue to mispronounce a name and the disrespect that is implied, once you’ve been given the person’s preference. We have a short memory for the intolerance passed off as ignorance.

  25. YinzerInExile
    September 19, 2011 7:35 am

    My last name is of German origin. It ends in a consonant, but people frequently add an erroneous ‘e’. I had no idea they were attempting to denigrate me.

    But now that I do–hooooo boy! I’m buying a taser!

  26. Heather
    September 19, 2011 8:26 am

    So Craig…two strikes and you’re out? You must be better at foreign languages than most. I took three in high school/college, and I certainly had to say some words more than once to get them right. No disrespect to the entire nations of Japan, Germany, or half the world who speaks Spanish intended.

    A fat tongue does not a bigot make.

  27. Monty
    September 19, 2011 8:53 am

    He’s probably just mad that his fiancee ditched him for Kenny Powers.

  28. Send It In Yarone!
    September 19, 2011 9:36 am

    I just feel bad for the millions across the world who’ve been the victims of real ethnic harassment. The Director acts like a upper middle class, elitist baby, while real people across the world suffer real pain as a result of their hertidge every day. Maybe Scoot Koonka should walk an hour in their shoes, or at the very least, spend a little time off of Grant St and learn what its like to have real problems…

  29. LaReina
    September 19, 2011 9:37 am

    Too bad we can’t make everyone in City Hall pass an emotional maturity test before they’re assigned their lofty job titles.

  30. bucdaddy
    September 19, 2011 10:07 am

    “emotional maturity test”

    That’s called an election.

    And look how that works out for your mayor.

  31. Butcher's Dog
    September 19, 2011 10:10 am

    OK, seems as though we’re ready to move on to WTRT this morning, eh?

  32. Butcher's Dog
    September 19, 2011 10:13 am

    @bucdaddey: that emotional maturity test election is, sadly, being conducted by voters who’d have a hard time passing that kind of test themselves. Just sayin’.

    @bluzdude: be glad for that final silent “e”. Otherwise it’d be, you know, dud. And none of us want that, I think.

  33. bucdaddy
    September 19, 2011 10:19 am

    I see what you did there, BDoge.

  34. tw
    September 19, 2011 10:25 am

    @Magnus… love your use of the words “hunky” and “dupa”. Two very prominent words in the Slovak household I grew up in. Now I’m homesick. :)

  35. RJQ
    September 19, 2011 10:28 am

    I feel like there should be more to this story… Did she call him a name or refer to him as “Hunky”? I know several people who are as offended by that word as someone being called the N word. This is especially true if you call a Hungarian Jew the H word.

    That communication, if he was really a victim of ethnic name-calling-mispronouncuingwhatever, should have been kept private. Although he takes it a too far and sounds childish, I understand what he’s saying. All that being said, releasing that email to the media was pretty rude and immature.

  36. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    September 19, 2011 11:16 am

    My understanding is that Director never corrected Councilwoman Harris as to the pronunciation of his last name, and they’ve known each other for over 20 years. Also, it sometimes take people a lifetime to pronounce words correctly. I’m still trying to figure out where the “ck” or “x” sounds come from in “Pittsburgh”.

  37. bucdaddy
    September 19, 2011 11:31 am

    From the same people who pronounce “escape” “exscape.”

  38. LaReina
    September 19, 2011 11:42 am

    Picksburgh has an “x” in it?

    This guy doesn’t hold an elective office, does he, so using the election process as the functional equivalent of an emotional maturity test doesn’t apply. Heaven knows it doesn’t actually work that way, anyway, or we wouldn’t see people like Lukey or Anthony Wiener in office. Hey, just wondering, has Lukey emailed photos of his junk to anyone? May as well.

  39. Kenneth
    September 19, 2011 11:47 am

    Unfortunately this isn’t a real emotional overreaction or freak out. It’s an excuse to not cooperate with the council in the coming months- to not hand over information, to not return phone calls and emails, and to not come back to these meetings. “How can I, when it’s obvious we’re fighting and you started it?” And: “Gee, given the sorry state of affairs, it would probably be best for everyone if that woman wasn’t made president of council again next time.” It’s called politics.

  40. Shelly
    September 19, 2011 12:06 pm

    yeah but…that Darlene Harris is SOOOOOO awful…I mean, anyone who has to sit in a room and regularly look at and communicate with her…I gotta feel bad for them. While “The Director’s” letter deserved being poked fun at…you know that women deserves it on some level, no? There’s probably some truth in it, no matter how trite.

  41. Venkatswami Ballasubramanium
    September 19, 2011 12:22 pm

    Dear MR. Scott,

    I seem to have no similar problem.

  42. Kathy
    September 19, 2011 12:28 pm

    Thank you Ginny!

  43. Julia
    September 19, 2011 12:40 pm

    Yet another reason why I moved out of the city and into the suburbs. I’ll be damned if my tax dollars support petty quarrels like this.

  44. Chloe
    September 19, 2011 2:42 pm

    Monty #27, So KunkA’s fiance ditched him? I knew he was engaged and didn’t hear if he got married or not. She probably got cold feet at the thought of taking his last name. She did not want to suffer the slings and arrows of the ethnic beat down. Better she ran off with Mr. Powers. Nice and safe.

  45. John Q. Public
    September 19, 2011 3:04 pm

    Hmm, I always thought the ‘K’s were silent. I feel so ashamed now

  46. elvis has just re-entered the building
    September 19, 2011 3:34 pm

    jus’ a kunka, kunka burnin’ love!

    uhh, thankyouvurrymuucch….

  47. Ms. CarolineFB
    September 19, 2011 3:45 pm

    If I had a penny for the amount of times my first AND last name have been mispronounced over my lifetime I’d be a super rich bitch and I’d make you all call me Ms. Rich Bitch! The Director needs to get over himself and his inflated ego.

    Did I read somewhere that Kunka means “tiny penis” in Ukranian? Now THAT is making fun of him. F*ckpig. So is that.

  48. Monty
    September 19, 2011 3:55 pm

    @Chloe — I was just indirectly suggesting that he bears a striking resemblance to Terence on Eastbound and Down (pic linked below). Incidentally, if you’ve never seen that show, you should.

  49. Rumplestiltskin
    September 20, 2011 9:52 am

    Wow. Just wow. I believe this is the first That’s Church post that I could stomach from beginning to end. (Although the comments are another matter.) Good job and thanks.

  50. ksw
    September 20, 2011 11:43 am

    and he is wasting time remonstrating a black, barely literate, woman about standard pronunciation?