RIOC Deep in Bunker Mode Now as Media Blockade Grows

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Bunker mode has been a RIOC feature for years. Facing criticism or even troubling questions, they hunker down, out of sight, as if being fired on. Instead of standing proud on its achievements, the state agency hides. It’s been noted in multiple administrations, but that of President/CYA Shelton J. Haynes reaches new depths of secrecy.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Shelton Haynes
Before becoming RIOC’s top executive, Shelton J. Haynes was friendly and accessible.

Bunker Mode and Governor Kathy Hochul

RIOC’s tendency to huddle under cover in bunker mode is made worse, contrasted against Governor Hochul’s pledge of increasing transparency and accountability. The local state agency grew much worse under her administration with no end in sight.

That was highlighted in the past week as RIOC stopped responding to most Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, persistently claiming it needs more time. In one case, they’ve refused supplying even the most minimal details for over nine months.

Appeals to state legislators have not budged Haynes & Company an inch out of bunker mode.

To be clear, state agencies have no legal obligation to speak to the media, but they do have a moral one. Shortly after becoming President, facing criticism, Haynes abruptly shut down most media communications, although he openly promised the opposite.

Media blockades are bizarre because, being defensive, they also prevent the agency from putting a positive spin on events. Any benefits are not apparent. In a chance meeting on the East Promenade, last year, I tried explaining this to Haynes. He went ballistic.

So much for that, but freedom of information requests are different.

Freedom of Information Law and Its Violation

“The Freedom of Information Law, effective January 1, 1978, reaffirms your right to
know how your government operates. It provides rights of access to records reflective of
governmental decisions and policies that affect the lives of every New Yorker.”

New York State: Your Right To Know

The law has served New Yorkers well, but in recent years, Governor Andrew Cuomo was notorious in evading it. So, too, is RIOC, but even worse under Hochul.

Because RIOC will not answer questions about nearly anything, no matter how impactful for Roosevelt Islanders, The Daily turned to FOIL requests for information. But instead of responding fully in a reasonable timeframe, the practice of prior administrations, Haynes’s team turned to bunker mode.

That didn’t go into full force until partial responses suggested serious wrongdoing within the state agency. Those results have been reported to the Inspector General for review with several under investigation. Perhaps because of this, RIOC stopped providing any information, a violation itself that will be referred to higher authorities charged with monitoring conduct.

FOIL Requests Denied Because RIOC Needs More Time

The Sportspark Drowning from Last May

After RIOC refused to provide the least information, not even the victim’s name, we FOILed them on June 8th. In the most recent refusal, RIOC wrote: “Please be advised that we require additional time…”

Rumors surfaced that RIOC is being sued over the tragedy, but a search of court records did not reveal any such lawsuit. No firm evidence of any misconduct by RIOC has surfaced, but that may account for invoking bunker mode for nine months now. The state is about to exceed even the normal period for an embryo becoming a whole human being.

Shelton J. Haynes Possible Unauthorized Outside Work

State law requires that most employees obtain permission before taking on work that may reflect on or make use of their state jobs. A whistleblower gave The Daily information that then Vice President, Operations Haynes did that, taking time off for a contract in another state.

We asked for the simplest documentation: anything showing that Haynes requested and/or received approval. After more than three months, RIOC again says it needs more time.

Conclusion: Bunker Mode

There is no way of telling whether or not RIOC or Haynes was or is guilty of anything. But the extreme secrecy bunker mode demands stirs suspicion. After all, people with nothing to hide don’t hide anything. Do they?

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