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A Spineless RIOC Board Now Ducking and Dodging Subpoenas

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Against all odds, a spineless RIOC board actually enhanced their status as an invertebrate clan, slumping and slouching, like mollusks fleeing hungry salamanders. But the show’s not over. The net’s closing in around their antics.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

In June, last year, the spineless RIOC board of enablers directors mollusks stepped aside while Governor Andrew Cuomo’s flamethrowers torched their CEO, Susan Rosenthal. But this year, it’s more like retreating from the threat of accountability.

Susan Rosenthal
Former RIOC president/CEO Susan Rosenthal

What the spineless RIOC board did…

Nothing.

Each board member stood back and let duties they swore to accept when joining the board be snatched away by a predatory Albany eagle.

When Cuomo stand-in Richard Azzopardi fired Rosenthal via a press release exclusive to the New York Post, not one of them stood up or said, “Hey, that’s my filamentous algae!”

And yet, the board stood ready and able to slouch into a Zoom where, to a man — yes, all men — they hustled to vote “Yes” for having Shelton J. Haynes replace her.

Longest serving member, David Kraut, led the charge, nominating Haynes without debate. And without giving Rosenthal even five minutes to defend herself against unsubstantiated charges.

Like she was chopped liver forgotten in the fridge. On Juneteenth.

I was far from Rosenthal’s biggest booster, but even I was sickened.

As time passed, I wondered less about cowardly actions by the spineless RIOC board and more about how Haynes unhesitantly accepted a promotion made possible by unfair dealing and, possibly, racism.

Much more.

But here’s the problem…

When the Urban Development Corporation handed over Roosevelt Island to RIOC, there were clear conditions. As a public benefit corporation, for example, RIOC would be independent, focused on the community.

Significantly, the board, before evolving into mollusks, got responsibility for hiring and firing. Sure, they whined over the years about Cuomo not giving them enough choices. But they went along, anyway, moving judiciously on, putting their radulae back to work on the sea floor.

They did, however, rise to the surface long enough to fire one president, Steve Shane, putatively on their own initiative. Their only open complaint against Shane was that he was smarter than all of them and stood in the way of a few profiting from Rivercross privatization.

He also didn’t want them signing on to Shops On Main, but that’s just piling on, just thoughtlessly making them look as awful as they really are.

A closed door deal, getting rid of Shave meant both things happening.

Yet, on June 16th, 2020, Juneteenth, the board wasn’t called into session before Cuomo’s surrogate did the dirty work. He fired Rosenthal, unconcerned about any objections from the mollusks.

Maybe the board was tied up eating gastropods.

Behind 460 Main, damaged seawall in the area Rosenthal says in in danger of catastrophic collapse.

So Rosenthal sued the spineless RIOC board for dereliction of duty…

Because, she says, the firing was racist and in retaliation for her efforts to protect Roosevelt Islanders from a “catastrophic” collapse of the east seawall… and the board failed to protect her as an employee.

Each board member accepts fiduciary responsibility for the corporation and its employees, like Rosenthal, not the governor. And so, she sued each individually, along with RIOC and the State, for failing to do the right thing.

But she could be 100% wrong, and maybe, they aren’t all bottom feeding mollusks.

Then, of course, they’d be proud of their service and trustworthiness. Each could stand tall and deny those accusations of hapless subservience to Andrew Cuomo.

But that’s not what happened. Not even close.

A disgrace…

“The evasiveness of defendants, all but one of whom are currently public servants who have sworn to uphold and respect the law, is a disgrace,” according to Rosenthal’s attorney, Steven Storch, in his most recent motion in the lawsuit.

RIOC’s board members “…play service avoidance games,” he says, costing his client thousands in tracking them down.

Kraut’s case makes a good example.

On June May 5th, process server J. J. Dunham rang the buzzer for Kraut’s Roosevelt Landings apartment, according to his sworn statement. Kraut answered, but when Dunham said he had a package for him, Kraut was unfortunately eaten by a toad…

As far as we know, because Kraut did not buzz him in nor come downstairs.

After similar experiences on the 10th and 15th, Dunham taped the summons to the door.

This reminded me of times when Kraut freely insulted residents appearing at board meetings or snickered contemptuously at others who weren’t present for the abuse.

Kraut’s just the most visible, but others serving on the spineless RIOC board fared no better, not even the attorneys and others with professional reputations worth protecting.

And yet, Cuomo’s employees were worse… the case of Simonida Sobotic

Process server Eliza J. Daniels tried reaching defendant Sobotic, a Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, at the governor’s Albany office. She was told “…that Ms. Subotic works out of the New York City location and cannot be served” in Albany, according to sworn court documents.

But Storch says in his most recent motion, “Then, when our process server attempted to serve Ms. Subotic at the New York City Office of the Governor, the security guard said that any service on an individual or the Governor’s Office must be made by mail to the Albany office.

“Our process server followed these instructions but Mr. Schwartz (Sobotic’s attorney) has said that is not proper service.”

Storch tells the court that Sobotic uses similar tactics in another, unresolved suit filed by Rosenthal.

A pattern emerges with the spineless RIOC board…

We’ve watched for developments in the discovery phase of Rosenthal’s first lawsuit, filed last year. Surprisingly, well past the date when materials should have been submitted by RIOC and its board, nothing appeared on the public record.

Now, we know why.

On May 13th, the court “…ordered the defendants to produce, among other things, audio tapes that defendants claim formed a principal basis for terminating Plaintiff. Not a single tape or document has been produced.”

Why is RIOC, the state and the board acting like they have something to hide?

Obviously, because they do.

Perhaps it’s unfair comparing mollusks, even in jest, to this crew. Mollusks, at least, know what they are and act accordingly.

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