The complaint filed with the New York state’s Inspector General charges gross misconduct in efforts aimed at firing Susan Rosenthal.
by David Stone
About the New RIOC Complaint
When the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Chamber was trying to get RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, their actions violated state employment rules and left us with many questions. We are more concerned about what local managers were doing in this situation. Something needs explaining.
An employee with supervisory responsibility has a duty to report any discrimination that they observe or otherwise know about. A supervisor who has received a report of workplace discrimination has a duty to report it to GOER, or in accordance with the employing agency’s policy, even if the individual who complained requests that it not be reported. Any discrimination or potential discrimination that is observed must be reported, even if no complaint has been made. Failure to comply with the duty to report may result in disciplinary and/or administrative action.NYS Governors Office of Employee Relations (GOER) Handbook, page 41
The rules are clear. If you see something, you report it, but that didn’t happen. The larger question may be, why? What was there to gain? And why pile on once the opportunity arose?
Because the story has been told before, we’ll be brief. The ambush of Susan Rosenthal began with an email blast from Karline Jean, an executive assistant. Jean did not make a report to GOER – she wasn’t required to – but her message detailed alleged actions by Rosenthal that “we” found offensive. It was sent to a range of public officials, RIOC’s board and others. She did not name who the others joining her in the grievance were.
An immediate review, out of Albany, did not find anything actionable in her charges, but then, something strange and never explained happened. The state’s investigator somehow stumbled upon a boatload of additional accusations from managers at the agency. Her source has not been revealed nor was any attempt made at confirming credibility. Although there isn’t a single signed statement from any employee, though, Cuomo’s team determined the allegations sufficient justification for Rosenthal’s immediate dismissal – on a significant African-American holiday.
The inquiry was rushed, far from complete and led to a newspaper first dismissal. It seems like the journalist didn’t even bother doing any research on their own before reporting such an absurdity.
Cuomo’s #2, self-described “mean girl” Melissa DeRosa, approved it, and apologist Richard Azzopardi swung the axe. He told the New York Post that Rosenthal was fired for sexual and racial violations before even she was told. The tabloid swallowed it whole without details. This happened on Juneteenth in 2020.
According to National Geographic, “Known to some as the country’s ‘second Independence Day,’ Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of enslaved people in the United States at the end of the Civil War.”
Who said what?
The investigator spoke, by telephone with at least five RIOC managers, including Operations Vice President Shelton Haynes and Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson, both multiple times. But probably the most clearcut concern arises after a conversation with Human Resources Manager Tajuna Sharpe.
Sharpe, according to the state investigators sworn affidavit, charged Rosenthal with making a sexually charged statement to and about her. (Rosenthal, in court records, denies it.) The trouble with that is, the incident was two years old. The apparent violation goes unnoted or questioned. Why Sharpe waited two years, if the offense happened and was as crude as she claims, is unknown.
Sharpe was later, after Haynes succeeded Rosenthal as President/CEO, promoted to a newly created executive position with a significant salary boost, during a budget crunch forced by the pandemic.
The anonymous attacks…
Two additional charges are not attributed to anyone nor is there any affidavit or other sworn document with first hand accounts. The worst involves a recording that includes Rosenthal allegedly using a racially derogatory term. (Rosenthal also denies this.) RIOC and the state have gone to great lengths avoiding disclosure of who made the recording, when it was made and under what circumstances.
Without disclosing who made the recording, the state’s investigator says she listened to it and was able to identify Rosenthal. The problem here is obvious. How could she have heard the recording if she did all of her interviews by telephone? How credible can such a claim be?
According to later court documents, the state says they’ve never had possession of the recording and don’t know its whereabouts. Nonetheless, it was enough for Team Cuomo.
The question remains of who made the recording, if it was, in fact, made at all and why? Who had that level of trust in the executive’s private discussions? Was it made with Rosenthal’s permission?
Most importantly, why was the recording never reported when it happened? Since the only individuals the state’s investigator spoke with were managers, someone was in violation of GOER rules requiring reporting. But the investigator apparently never asked.
Sources tell The Daily that the executive who secretly made the recording played it back to African-American employees, stirring resentment against Rosenthal, undermining her management of the agency. That’s one of the things immediate reporting is meant to prevent.
Conclusion: The New RIOC Complaint
Because there has been no apparent effort to investigate obvious GOER violations, especially in light of their use in attacking an executive,The Daily turned to the Inspector General with the information. We are concerned – and noted – that those involved were never penalized but, in fact, promoted and given pay raises.
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