RIOC conflicts of interest for board member Michael Shinozaki loom large but remain publicly undisclosed. He does not abstain from voting, and he’s open with opinions. But why no disclosure…?
By David Stone
Why do Shinozaki’s conflicts matter…?
Note: Shinozaki resigned from RIOC’s board as of December 2023.
Let’s take the simplest, most direct route…
Boards should require that anyone who has, of thinks they may have, a conflict of interest to disclose the conflict publicly. Board members with conflicts of interest should abstain from voting on any matters where there is a conflict or potential conflict of interest.Source: The Board Effect
Numerous experts repeat similar guidance because there is no good reason for not doing so. Full disclosure generates public trust and should be a quality any board member embraces.
After all, who wants suspicions about bias hanging in the air over important decisions? And yet, again and again, Shinozaki, among the most outspoken of board members, votes and promotes without a word about conflicts.
What are the conflicts?
A confession: I never paid much attention to RIOC conflicts of interest until Shinozaki’s patroon-like remarks during the December public session.
Why doesn’t someone tell Mike to shut TF up? I thought.
Off he went, ticked off at a comment he didn’t like, announcing that the board had no responsibility for listening to remarks. It was a “courtesy,” he said.
Awful enough, stressing RIOC’s longstanding flaw, failing to engage the public, but it got me thinking.
Shinozaki is a Microsoft executive. Both the Related and the Hudson Companies have substantial business dealings with Microsoft. There’s more and maybe worse, but that’s a starter.
Over years of board meetings I’ve attended, he has never once disclosed those conflicts. Nor has he at any time recused himself.
And it’s a testament to the shaky ethical nature of RIOC itself that multiple board presidents and chairs never objected.
Conflicts of interest abound at the board level. They constitute a significant issue in that they affect ethics by distorting decision making and generating consequences that can undermine the credibility of boards, organizations or even entire economic systems.Source: IMD
The New York State connection…
We’ll pass on potential conflicts of interest with the state, which has deep connections with Microsoft, especially after Andrew Cuomo came into office. But RIOC is another matter.
While it goes without saying that voting on a budget that includes investments in Microsoft products is clearly improper, however insignificant the dollar amount, Shinozaki’s gone much farther.
During his earliest years of service on the board, Shinozaki pressured RIOC’s computer networking professionals to rip out their server software and replace it with Microsoft operating systems. Managers confided their concerns about his interference.
At the time, RIOC’s client/server environment ran on Novell NetWare, a Microsoft competitor. The managers who resisted have since left state employment
FULL DISCLOSURE: I worked for a company that partnered with Novell and sold software and support to RIOC at that time. At least in part, that set the stage for their sharing concerns with me.
More RIOC conflicts of interest…
Not only has Shinozaki failed to disclose conflicts of interest regarding Microsoft, New York State, and the Hudson and Related Companies, but he also cast a decisive vote when RIOC crushed the Roosevelt Island Youth Program. Shinozaki’s wife, Lynne, was active with Hope Church, now called Mosaic, a group widely regarded as piloting the fatal initiative.
But Shinozaki spoke and voted, anyway, without a word about the conflict.
Hope Church’s activism in harming the RIYP, especially by its pastor, was well-known, if never acknowledged by RIOC. Multiple sources told us that Shinozaki stirred the pot after RIYP kicked the pastor out of a volunteer coaching position. RIYP said the pastor sought religious converts on the kids’ soccer teams.
The pastor denied the accusation, but a second group with which he was associated later tried wrestling control of youth programs away from RIYP.
When that failed, RIOC followed up, yanking financial support from RIYP, essentially starving it out of existence. Shinozaki’s vote was crucial.
Michael Shinozaki’s RIOC conflicts of interest…
This is not to say Shinozaki’s votes or comments were improperly influenced by his employment status or place of worship. They may or may not have been.
Nonetheless, a failure at disclosing these conflicts looms large as failings by both RIOC and its board member. Whether it’s Hudson-Related, Mosaic Church, Starrett, Bozzuto or anyone else, conflicts must be disclosed.
They were not during countless votes, and the larger question is, Why?