After reading about the latest in an avalanche of bad RIOC news, “How can he stay on?” he asked. Our reader asked about RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes, and his question echoed others bouncing around Roosevelt Island. The answer, sadly, is simple.
by David Stone
“How can he stay on?”
It’s a legitimate question after nearly two years of RIOC failures under Haynes. And it’s not just management shortcomings. Residents repeatedly question what appear to be ethical lapses and a lack of public accountability.
For example, a young man drowns in the Sportspark Pool, a resource under the management of Haynes’s longtime friend Altheria Jackson. A year later, we still don’t know his name, the circumstances or why lifeguards apparently were not on duty.
We don’t have the details about how Haynes assisted an associate in getting a lucrative deal on a coronavirus testing site without competitive bidding. Or why RIOC is paying triple the rent of the previous tenant in its new headquarters.
These just skim the top of ethics concerns, but the absence of leadership skills is glaring too.
Many different qualities make a good leader, but some of the most important skills include being able to communicate effectively, making sound decisions, delegating tasks appropriately, and having a strong vision. Leaders also motivate and inspire others to achieve common goals.
Does anyone not getting a paycheck from RIOC seriously believe Haynes meets any of these criteria?
Although bunker mode prevents full disclosure, of what is visible, we gather that his primary leadership tactic relies on reward and punishment. One employee says, either you “kiss the ring” or you will be banished.
Kissing the ring means salary and position bumps, they say, even when new job titles must be created for the rewards.
Some current and past employees grew so disgusted they released a long screed accusing Haynes of everything from incompetence to corruption.
So, “How can he stay on?”
The answer is depressingly simple. Haynes securing a position many co-workers believe he can’t handle and never deserved comes out of the need for Governor Kathy Hochul to hold onto an important voting block. She faces a strong primary challenge from Jumaane Williams who strongly challenged her for Lieutenant Governor two years ago.
Competence doesn’t count when political patronage determines decision-making. Those of us who value good government have our trust in integrity thrown into the mud.
How political patronage influences elections in New York
In New York, elections are often decided by which candidate can mobilize the most voters from their respective party. This generally means that the candidate who wins the nomination of their party (in a primary election) is usually the one who goes on to win in the general election.
The problem is that many times, the candidate who wins the nomination is not necessarily the best candidate for the job. This is because the process of winning the nomination is often more about who has the most political clout or connections, rather than who is the most qualified.
This system of patronage means that those who are in charge of making decisions about who gets nominated are often more concerned with supporting their friends or allies, rather than supporting the best candidate. This can lead to cronyism and corruption, as well as a general feeling among the public that their vote doesn’t matter.
In New York, there have been several high-profile cases of corruption in recent years, including the arrest of elected officials and appointees on charges of bribery and fraud. This has led to a loss of faith in the state’s political system and a feeling that the process is rigged in favor of those with power and influence.
Roosevelt Island is not an exception.
Thus, Haynes and Hochul benefit, but the public does not.
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