Eighteen months after Susan Rosenthal’s dismissal, RIOC staff members offer bombshell claims that President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes actively aided in her racially charged firing. Some are speaking out, saying a cover up is active, including rewards for Haynes loyalists.
By David Stone
RIOC Staff Rips President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes
Note: Primary elements of this story are based on communications from a source known as trustworthy. She/He was not a RIOC staffer at any time. Details were “collected from current and former RIOC employees who cannot come forward or share their identities. Haynes is a bully and coward who has and will continue to take extreme measures to destroy these individuals personal lives and careers.”
The Daily independently verified some of the information, but our source is a professional with an impeccable public reputation and deep connections within the state agency.
“He’s the most insecure big guy I’ve ever met and not as smart as he thinks he is,” were the gentlest comments we heard from RIOC staff. But they may be the most insightful. “He’s definitely a bully,” our contact added for this article.
Others describe Haynes as a coward shielded by a select group being “paid off” in promotions and large salary increases. These raises came, including one for Haynes himself, during the pandemic. At the time, RIOC struggled with budget shortfalls as Tram and other revenues tanked.
But the bombshell…
“Haynes was the person who recorded Susan saying racially charged words months before her firing,” RIOC staffers charged.
Although the recordings are mentioned in two lawsuits filed against RIOC, the person recording them was secret. RIOC failed to produce the tapes demanded in the discovery of Rosenthal’s lawsuit. A state investigator talked with Haynes at least twice in the days before Rosenthal’s abrupt dismissal.
“He was afraid to speak up and report it (the recording) to avoid creating waves for himself and his position,” RIOC staffers say. But state regulations demand that managers immediately report any knowledge of sexual harassment or racial discrimination.
“He held onto the audio until it could be used to damage her,” sources tell us. “As everyone knows who has been following her story, the recording was the evidence that was the deciding factor of her termination. Susan was no angel, but she was a true professional who knew how to get things done.”
Although several managers reported allegations against Rosenthal during a hasty investigation, none were previously known to state officials. As far as we know, no penalties for any manager resulted.
RIOC Staff Source: “Haynes is forcing employees to cover up things….”
Buttressing charges of a cover-up, RIOC staffers point to “promotions given to a select few.” Erica Spencer-EL won the first. Already responsible for the Youth Center and Community Relations, Spencer-EL got control of Communications too within days of Rosenthal’s departure. Haynes ordered the promotion.
The move was unexpected, given Spencer-EL’s lack of experience or training in communications. Soon followed the voluntary departure of veteran Public Information Officer Terrence McCauley. That, also, marked the end of reliable or even reliably literate RIOC communications and the start of a media blackout.
“Erica hates accountability, and there’s got to be something going on between her and Shelton,” one staffer insists. The pair had previously been instrumental in crushing the independent Roosevelt Island Youth Program. A RIOC takeover of the Youth Center followed with Spencer-EL in charge with a tripled budget.
But for all of that, Spencer-EL did not benefit as well from Haynes devotion as some. Her salary boost to $122,633.97 pales next to others during the pandemic.
“Staff who pandered to Haynes received promotions, increasing their salaries upwards from $40- 50K,” our source claims. “This is the first time that this has been done in the history of the corporation.”
The fraudster’s greatest liability…
“The fraudster’s greatest liability is the certainty that the fraud is too clever to be detected.” — Louis J. Freeh, 5th Director of the Federal Bureau of InvestigationMedium
“Remembering that everything that you’re researching and reporting on always links back to Haynes,” our source argues, “Haynes is using the corporation as a slush fund for himself and his cronies.”
Verifying this accusation is difficult, maybe impossible, but indirect evidence is helpful. Players active in Rosenthal’s dismissal and Haynes immediate promotion fared very well.
We have already reported on Haynes’s spectacular raise to $216,152.30, roughly $40,000 more than any previous RIOC executive. That gives him higher pay than the governors of 49 states, every county executive as well as every other elected official in New York besides Governor Kathy Hochul.
Trickle down salary benefits…
But payroll generosity does not end there. General Counsel Gretchen Robinson saw her salary jump to $175,033.22, roughly equal to Rosenthal’s on her last day in June, 2020. Robinson played local point of contact for investigators gathering evidence against Rosenthal.
Promoted to Assistant Vice President, Operations, Altheria Jackson pulls down $156,279.58 yearly. Jackson is a long time friend of Haynes’s who followed him to New York from Georgia. RIOC staff tells us that Haynes twice tried landing her a job before succeeding. One inside manager protested that Jackson “..met the skillset of an administrative assistant,” but was overruled. Her hiring, like Haynes’s, suggests that no one local or within a thousand miles filled the need as well.
Also within the group pivotal in Rosenthal’s dismissal and pulling down six figure salaries are Associate General Counsel Arthur Eliav ($149,563.05) and Senior Project Manager Prince Shah ($123,982.04). Karline Jean, who initiated the attack on Rosenthal with an email blast, gets $90,898.81 as an executive assistant under Robinson.
But the most notable is Tajuna Sharpe, Human Resources Manager under Rosenthal. Haynes promoted her, without any known rationale, to Assistant Vice President, Operations at a cool $161,288.04 annually. Sharpe was a key witness against Rosenthal, accusing her of making crude sexual comments. Although a manager, she had not reported them at the time of occurrence.
But wait, aren’t there any guardrails…?
One source asks, “Is the board aware of the latest salary increases?
“Public authorities are set up so that boards of directors establish compensation for executives. Haynes should have received approval from the board for these promotions and the newly created AVP roles.
“When did the board approve these salaries? Why wasn’t this info posted publicly as done in previous years? Were the details of the increases hidden from the board?”
Because of RIOC’s extreme secrecy, we can’t answer these questions, but at no time were the promotions or salary increases specifically before the board in public sessions. Under prior administrations, a list of executive salaries appeared in financial reports. But that practice ended. As far as we can tell, the board did not approve specific raises or promotions.
“Haynes has gone through great lengths to keep things under wraps,” our source says. We can’t prove it’s true, but enough evidence exists calling for a thorough investigation.
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