The mysterious letter attacking Haynes, a mystery no more


Attacking Haynes, RIOC’s President/CEO, is the main thrust of a detailed letter disgruntled employees released publicly, last week. The letter was emailed to at least one public official who sent it to the Inspector General. The Daily obtained a copy, and the charges are serious, much of the information new. There is so much needing reporting that we will cover this in several parts. This is Part One.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Who is attacking Haynes?

Shelton Haynes
RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes during a visit at the CBN/RI Senior Center in 2019.

In their letter, the authors call themselves city and state employees. That’s as much as we know. But based on the detailed content, they appear to be insiders sharing information not previously made public as a protest against Haynes. His enablers also take a shellacking.

Their request, stated at the outset is “immediate resignation” of President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes, VP and General Counsel Gretchen Robinson, AVP Tajuna Sharpe, Deputy General Counsel Markus Sztejnberg and AVP of Programs & Operations Altheria Jackson.

Much of the information is compelling. But some is also shocking and sickening.

The letter begins by citing Governor Kathy Hochul’s promise of a “dramatic change in culture, with accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line.” It then asks why that doesn’t apply to RIOC.

We begin now with one of several matters of serious concern reported by the whistleblowers, any one of which, if true, is sufficient to justify immediate dismissal of those involved.

Item #1: “Covering Up a Negligent Death at Sportspark Pool”

As reported earlier, RIOC has blocked disclosing any details, even the victim’s name, about the May 16th, 2021, drowning in Sportspark. They’ve violated Freedom of Information Law requirements repeatedly – without any interference from “no tolerance for individuals who cross the line” Hochul. But now, the whistleblowers allege tawdry reasons behind the secrecy, offering details not previously released.

Was this death avoidable?

According to the authors attacking Haynes, “Video footage of the incident shows that RIOC lifeguards were not at their assigned posts and not paying attention to the pool. For this reason, it was other swimmers in the pool who took notice of the young man, who had been in distress for so long that he had sunk to the bottom of the pool

“Video footage also shows that poolside efforts to revive the young man were chaotic, with members of the public administering CPR before any of the lifeguards.”

The Daily has not seen this video, but the whistleblowers’ narrative is consistent with stories related by others who were on the scene.

A cover up?

Soon after learning about the death, the whistleblowers allege that Haynes met with PSD Chief Kevin Brown, his assistant Anthony Amaroso, Sharpe, Robinson and Jackson. All, they say, were ordered not to email any correspondence about the incident. And all communications must be confined to telephone calls. If true, these are the obvious ingredients for a cover up protecting RIOC and specific individuals from accountability.

RIOC has rebuffed all requests for information, including FOILs, in violation of the law as well as Hochul’s orders. Some tolerance for “individuals who cross the line” is okay with her, at least when it involves RIOC.

In attacking Haynes, the whistle blowers add an additional motive for covering up. Unqualified nepotism hire Altheria Jackson, a long time friend of Haynes who has followed him through at least three states, had overall responsibility for Sportspark.

This story continues tomorrow.

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