Over the Top in the Whistleblower Attack on Haynes and RIOC

Over the Top in the Whistleblower Attack on Haynes and RIOC

The whistleblower attack, in a mysterious letter accusing RIOC and it President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes, has plenty to say. Some of it is either untrue or unproven. This is Part Two

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Blackwell House with President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes’s windows shading out public view on the second floor.

The Whistleblower Attack in Perspective

The lengthy, well-researched whistleblower attack we’ve been reporting on exposes a lot of bad behavior. Poor management and loose ethics are obvious, but being crystal clear, there is no solid evidence of any illegal conduct by Haynes or anyone else. But in an avalanche of ugly exposures, that’s the best you can say about the RIOC crew.

“The fish rots from the head, as they say, and the head that appointed this tyrant was (Governor Kathy) Hochul’s disgraced predecessor, Andrew Cuomo.”

So begins a full throttle attack on Haynes, blaming Cuomo but also turning up the heat on Hochul to do something, anything really, about the swamp swallowing up RIOC. In over six months in office, she has failed at coming through with her promises about openness and accountability. That makes her worse than Cuomo because, in practice, he made no bones about being a creep. Hochul, on the other hand, claims she’s taking the high road.

But she isn’t. Not here on Roosevelt Island, anyway.

An Array of Misconduct and Mismanagement

We will detail some of the whistleblower attack details in the days ahead – there’s a lot to cover. But for now, we’ll set you up with an overview. Specifically, they claim…

Misappropriation of State Funds

We’ve reported on Haynes’s apparent issues with the Housing Authority of DeKalb County in Georgia. But that covers mishandling and mismanagement during his tenure running a voucher there, not misappropriation, which suggests embezzlement. And the HUD report cited never specifically mentions Haynes.

The whistleblowers condition charges against Haynes of “cooking the books” at RIOC with the DeKalb story, but they offer no concrete evidence. There is considerable circumstantial evidence, with multiple fast exits from Finance, but Haynes is simply not RIOC’s bookkeeper. He could not do any of this independently, and no one else is implicated.

Covering Up a Negligent Death

Strong evidence suggest this is truth as you can see from yesterday’s Part One report.

Mismanagement of the AVAC System

Over the past year of AVAC breakdowns, Haynes kept enough distance that he nearly vanished. He left the fumbling and bumbling to his staff. But this problem is of longstanding with plenty of blame for distribution. Realistically, the fault lies with RIOC’s hapless board of directors who do little effective directing, leaving unqualified management in place and unguided.

Cronyism

There are mountains of evidence on this. Cronyism is, for the record, the appointment of friends and loyalists to positions of authority with little regard for their qualifications. RIOC has always done this, through political patronage, but with Haynes in charge, it reached mythic proportions.

Fraud

There are suggestions but no concrete proof. We’ve reported extensively on this, especially as regards the Swift Emergency COVID Testing Site debacle. The whistleblowers add some detail, but Haynes’s FOIL blockade has kept many documents out of public view. If the state Inspector General does her job, the accusations may or may not prove true.

Safe to day, Haynes has a lot of explaining to do.

Abuse of Power

This is essentially at he core of the whistleblower attack. There are so many examples, they left some out. Ultimately, though, abuse of power is in the eyes of the beholder. My eyes say it’s true, but opinions are rarely unanimous.

Predatory Behavior/Grooming and Fostering a Toxic Work Environment

These charges are far too serious for the evidence provided, which is thin and not specific at any point. No one, to our knowledge, has ever made an official complaint about this. Period.

Disability Discrimination

The whistleblowers add a single anecdotal account, but Haynes’s disregard for ADA requirements is well-established. His own office in Blackwell House is noncompliant, and a callous, hurtful snub of physically challenged visitors was on full display for months.

While he has far from perfect attendance, when he did show up for work, Haynes waltzed by this insult for six months. Public pressure, not his ethics or empathy, finally forced its removal.

Violating NYS Equal Employment Laws

There is no substantial evidence supporting this, although we, along with the whistleblowers, suspected it. But suspicions are not facts. If they have more, we’d love seeing it.

Violating NYS Ethics Laws: JCOPE (Title 19: Disclosure of Outside Activities)

As we reported, at least one incident of outside work by Haynes apparently went unreported. Giving RIOC a chance to clear Haynes of these charges, we wrote to Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson, asking for evidence of his requesting and/or receiving approval. Robinson did not provide any.

When her silence went on long enough, we FOILed RIOC for it. Consistent with a pattern, RIOC failed, so far, to meet the minimum requirements for meeting transparency statutes. This case is odder than most because meeting FOIL requirements might clear Haynes. But it appears that they cannot.

Whistleblower Attack Highlights and Lowlights

The above are taken directly from the whistleblower letter. Some of the charges are weak, but we will cover those that aren’t in the coming days.

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