In April, Arthur Eliav, a RIOC legal counsel for fifteen years, dismissed without cause in December, pled with RIOC’s board to do its job. No surprise, the board continues as it has for years regardless with no action taken. For reasons this and the following articles will explain, only a clean sweep of the board and executive offices can fix the state agency. But will Governor Kathy Hochul stand tall where the board repeatedly failed?
by David Stone
Ex-RIOC Insider Lowers the Boom on Shelton Haynes and Others
Over the years I’ve known him, Arthur Eliav has been a loyal RIOC attorney. After board committee meetings, I’d see him toiling away at his desk hours after other staff went home.
Then, after criticizing thin-skinned President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes and Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson, he suddenly – without notice or explanation – found himself on the outside looking in.
The view was different from there, like looking into a cesspool of schemes and misconduct, all of which increased under Haynes. That’s according to a detailed letter he shared with RIOC’s board.
The Daily obtained a copy of that letter from an anonymous source.
“As someone who had the privilege of providing legal counsel to this Board for over 15 years, I write to inform you of the illegal, discriminatory, and retaliatory termination of my employment with RIOC on December 1, 2021, as well as of the corruption and incompetence pervading the upper echelon of RIOC staff.” – Arthur Eliav, from his April letter to RIOC’s spine-free board of directors.
“You have the ultimate power and responsibility to eliminate the discrimination, illegality, corruption, and absolute incompetence that are suffocating RIOC at the hands of the current President/CEO Shelton Haynes (“Haynes”), Vice President and General Counsel Gretchen Robinson (“Robinson”), Assistant Vice President for Administration Tajuna Sharpe (“Sharpe”), and various of their handpicked associates.Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation
Far Beyond an Inappropriate Dismissal
As we will detail in future articles, Eliav’s complaints against a racially charged firing reveal new details about the goings-on inside RIOC. These include specifics about how a policy of denying information sought in legitimate FOIL requests by The Daily was engineered by Haynes and Robinson.
The alleged misconduct and incompetence echo suspicions already circulating. But what remains unanswered is why the board, responsible for the state agency’s operations, is either too weak or afraid to act
The fiduciary responsibilities of a board member with a New York State public benefit corporation – like RIOC – are clear. They’re spelled out in General Business Law, Sections 717-a and 717-b. But RIOC’s board routinely ignores them.
As a governing body, the board is tasked with hiring and firing the president/CEO. The current situation – a CEO who allegedly engaged in race discrimination, illegally withheld public information, and retaliated against an employee for seeking to do his job – demands that Haynes be terminated.
But RIOC’s board fails at every opportunity to take action or even investigate complaints. They’ve never once disciplined Haynes or Robinson, who, together with Sharpe, make up the troika currently in charge of our state agency.
They’ve granted Haynes and Robinson raises and bonuses while complaints have been lodged against them.
Fired Without Any Given Reason
Eliav reached out to the board, with evidence, asking them to investigate his firing as well as multiple examples of what he considers professional misconduct by Haynes, Robinson and Sharpe.
But after fifteen years with the state agency and, according to evaluations, a satisfactory record, Eliav’s firing is a head-snapping confirmation of the cruelty implicit among RIOC executives.
Supported by copies of emails, Eliav illustrates a chaotic week during which he went from a valued employee invited to apply for a promotion to a RIOC nobody, dismissed and locked out.
The only thing missing was an explanation from Haynes.
An Email Slide Downhill
On Wednesday, November 24th, both Eiiav and Lada Stasko, also a RIOC lawyer, had a conference call with Robinson. It was followed by this email message from her:
“As discussed, please be advised that the new position for the legal department has been posted internally. If you have any individual questions regarding the same lets schedule a time next week where I can make myself available to answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!”
But after spending much of the holiday weekend thinking it through, Eliav protested. His last promotion, he told Robinson and Haynes in an email, was ten years before. And he had, in fact, approached Haynes about a promotion as recently as September.
“Seeing that now this position is being advertised internally (and then presumably to the outside world),” he wrote, “leads me to believe that my candidacy has been passed over and that this invitation to apply is a mere window dressing.
“I first received that impression when during our noon call on the day before Thanksgiving (November 24, 2021), you first announced (and I am paraphrasing without changing the substance) that the Legal Department will be expanding with a position of the DGC (Deputy General Counsel) because RIOC is gettng an increased number of commercial litigation claims and we need someone with litigation experience to deal with them.
“First of all, I respectfully disagree with those assertions.”
He continued, arguing that the job posting was rigged to block him out, explaining why his qualifications were adequate for the position.
Haynes & Company Turn Cold
As others have insisted, challenging Haynes’s authority is, in and of itself, grounds for dismissal. But Haynes leaves the dirty work to others.
“Thank you for your email,” Haynes emailed back. “I respectfully disagree with your recollection of our conversation, but the listing will remain as-is.” That was Monday, November 29th, at 3:20 p.m.
But less than two days later, while home on a sick day, Eliav received this email from Robinson: “I am sorry to have to inform you in this manner but I have attempted to call you a few times unsuccessfully. I am sorry to report that the decision has been made to end your employment with RIOC, effective immediately.”
No reason was given. She had earlier emailed, “Feel better,” when learning he was off sick.
Shortly thereafter, Eliav received a letter from Sharp via courier: “The decision was made to terminate your employment here at Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, effective Wednesday, December 1st, 2021.”
As part of the package, Eliav was offered a generous separation fee as long as he signed off on an agreement promising to keep his mouth shut and not take legal action against RIOC.
He did not accept it.
In future articles, we will explore revelations contained in his email to the board and why, we believe, corruption saturates RIOC and is protected by Governor Kathy Hochul.”
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