Behind Closed Doors at RIOC, the Strange Promotion of Tajuna Sharpe

Behind Closed Doors at RIOC, the Strange Promotion of Tajuna Sharpe

Sources tell us that RIOC human resources director Tajuna Sharpe was quietly made Assistant Vice President. No formal announcement followed, but questions rose because of her critical role in the firing of Susan Rosenthal.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Tajuna Sharpe and Her Role in the Controversial Firing of Susan Rosenthal

“Tajuna Sharpe just got promoted to AVP of Administration,” a RIOC source said. A derogatory comment about her activities in support of president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes followed.

This made Sharpe at least the third person connected with Rosenthal’s dismissal promoted before settlement in the case.

Alarms went off because of her crucial role in the contentious firing of Haynes’s predecessor, Susan Rosenthal. The dismissal, on Juneteenth, 2020, is subject of a lawsuit calling it an ambush.

Barely a week before, a disgruntled employee, Karline Jean, emailed numerous officials with complaints accusing Rosenthal of racism. State overseers, within a day or two, determined the charges not actionable. Although Jean’s public attack allegedly violated established procedures, no known action followed.

But what happened next lead to a pair lawsuits demanding damages against RIOC and the state for violating Rosenthal’s rights. Both remain unsettled.

An Albany Investigation in Search of a Cause

Albany turned its own policy regarding racism and sexual misconduct on its ear in, Rosenthal claims, a coordinated plot to get her.

First, although the state found Jean’s accusations without merit, an investigator chatted her up by phone. It was then that a virtual cornucopia of additional charges emerged, leading to Rosenthal’s dismissal.

The Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) Handbook is clear about handling such issues, but violations by RIOC staff went unrecognized. This, in fact, futhered suspicions about both motives and the people involved.

The Handbook demands that charges of racism and/or sexual misconduct stay secret. But more interestingly in the case of Sharpe and others, rules require that managers report any observed incident.

Susan Rosenthal
Susan Rosenthal during her tenure at RIOC.

Because not one of the charges coming out of the investigators chat with Jean had ever been reported, multiple violations among RIOC managers undoubtedly occurred. But in their haste to fire Rosenthal on Juneteenth, the state ignored them.

What Tajuna Sharpe Knew

An accusation by Tajuna Sharpe formed a core article in the charges against Rosenthal, but as a manager, she had not reported it before. Rosenthal, Sharpe claimed, according to the investigator’s report, explained her unease at meetings with men as the result of her not knowing how to perform oral sex.

There is no affidavit from Sharpe or any of the others, but the investigator swore that Sharpe confirmed the charges, perhaps even initiated them. In either case, her failure at reporting the incident, coupled with its abrupt arrival after Jean’s efforts failed, should have raised doubts in any legitimate investigation.

While Rosenthal fiercely denies the charges, her lawsuit suggests the invention of unsubstantiated stories as convenient for a predetermined result.

Before accepting a job with RIOC, Rosenthal, an attorney with long history of successes, reports a warning about an internal “cabal” dedicated to undermining RIOC management. “Cabal,” she says in her lawsuit, was not her word but the state’s.

The gang, including Jean, was familiar as far away as Albany, the lawsuit says, but it persisted anyway.

Sharpe’s involvement with the “cabal” is unknown, but her impact on it’s goals is clear. And now, without explanation, Haynes promoted her to Assistant Vice President in spite details from the contentious lawsuits still pending.

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