Susan Rosenthal with coronavirus face mask
Before her unexpected firing, RIOC president/CEO Susan Rosenthal led the charge against the coronavirus.

Down and Dirty, State’s New Charges Against RIOC’s Fired CEO


RIOC’s fired CEO Susan Rosenthal was foul mouthed, racist and sexually explicit with employees. Shocking charges steamed out of New York State’s response to her lawsuit, but she denies all of them.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island Daily News

New York slams RIOC’s fired CEO, Susan Rosenthal

Shocking allegations of racism and sexual misconduct leap into the scene and lead to her dismissal. The charges were not part of the original complaint but gathered during the investigation.

The original charges, dumped in an open letter from a disgruntled employee, were not sufficient for action in themselves. But what came after was earthshaking, illuminating hostile working conditions existing for years.

According to Albany operatives, Rosenthal…

  • Told an employee that, if he talked as she did, he’d be “looked at as a typical n*****…”
  • Mediating an employee dispute, instructed an employee of color to “take out a ruler and measure [his] penis,” adding “don’t worry, yours is definitely bigger.”
  • Told a woman of color, that her problem in dealing with men in business meetings was that she hadn’t “learned how to suck dick.”

There was more, but Rosenthal denied each of them in a telephone interview with the investigator.

RIOC's fired CEO Susan Rosenthal with coronavirus face mask
Before her unexpected firing, RIOC president/CEO Susan Rosenthal led the charge against the coronavirus. That powerful, effective legacy gets lost among scurrilous charges leveled against her.

And then, there was this…

Tensions were such that one unidentified RIOC employee secretly taped the fired CEO’s remarks, but there’s a kicker there even more concerning.

If you thought, as many do, that the state agency’s a snake pit of back-stabbing, opportunism and strife, consider this. The officer assigned to investigate, Georgianna Martin, reported recognizing Rosenthal’s voice on the tape because she investigated at least four previous hostile environment complaints at RIOC.

You never really know who your friends are…

Although the State tossed the initial employee complaint, distributed far and wide, as not enough for action, an investigation revealed much worse.

How did Martin’s discussions with employees lead to the above charges? That’s unknown, but the names of those participating is. The list includes two vice presidents and other senior staff.

Martin’s quoted in the lawsuit as interviewing both Shelton Haynes (Operations VP) and Gretchen Robinson (Legal VP) multiple times. She also spoke with staff attorney Arthur Eliav and senior project manager Prince Shah. None stand out as specific sources or as victims of RIOC’s fired CEO because the lawsuit is unclear.

But, anyway, according to New York State, Rosenthal lacks standing for her complaint of improper dismissal…

“The Petitioner was an employee-at-will with no right to continued employment. Thus, her Petition should be dismissed.” That’s the State’s central argument, but that did not preclude a thorough trashing of Rosenthal.

Eventually, the charges rippled up to Governor Cuomo’s legal counsel and others, including secretary to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, and the firing of Rosenthal rippled back to Roosevelt Island.

Board chair Ruthanne Visnauskas pulled the trigger, dispatching RIOC’s fired CEO over the phone with instructions to not return to her office, even for personal items.

RIOC’s fired CEO and its ultra passive board…

Here’s the state agency’s argument in RIOC’s defense:

“RIOC cannot be deemed to have acted arbitrarily or capriciously because it had no part in the termination decision that is the subject of the Petition. RIOC did not make the decision to terminate the Petitioner. In fact, RIOC was not informed of the decision until after it was made and the termination had been affected.”

In other words, get out of the way, pretenses abandoned, Albany’s in charge here and will do as it wishes. And we don’t answer to you, Roosevelt Island.

But that’s not the worst of it in terms of pathetic.

In statement after statement, RIOC board members mumble the Butterfly McQueen defense.

As Prissy in Gone With the Wind, McQueen burst out, “Oh, Miss Scarlett! I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!”

Although sworn in as responsible for managing RIOC, each says they know next to nothing about the agency, the raw complaints or much else except its location in relation to their own.

Some are lawyers, mind you, and others have sat on the board for years, but the average resident on the street knows more about the agency than they do. At least, that’s what they say.

And according to the record, usurped in Rosenthal’s dismissal, none blinked nor at promoting Shelton Haynes immediately. In neither action did the State meet Open Meetings Law requirements, but that didn’t bother any of them either.

Conclusion: RIOC’s fired CEO gets her turn…

By March 4th, Rosenthal must respond, and given the down and dirty gravity of the charges against her, she will do so powerfully. Professional reputations and integrity are at stake here, and she’s unlikely to allow her attackers to go unchallenged.

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