Once upon a time, RIOC board meetings were widely publicized. The state agency did not flinch or cower from public exposure. Those days are over now with the super-secret Hochul/Haynes administration.
by David Stone
So, while RIOC email blasted about DOT Bridge Testing, they did not similarly reach out about likely the most important meeting of the year. Neither did they post board materials that would give you a chance to review the items under consideration.
What’s So Important About This Board Meeting
In its last meeting until late September, the board votes on the fiscal package for the current year, which began in April. Those items are the core of the agenda.
Usually, this is a little dry with votes coming after committees already reviewed and approved the packages, but this is different. Among other items, there is an “Insurance Binder” needing approval. We now know it reflects mounting employment lawsuits during the Haynes/Hochul era at RIOC.
So many lawsuits have hit RIOC that its insurance carrier refused to renew its agreement with them. And the newly recruited carrier, Chubb, agreed only after demanding a deductible increase from $250K to a whopping $1 million. That means RIOC and, ultimately, residents must cover the first million in penalties when the state agency loses, which it usually does.
And as terminated RIOC legal counsel Arthur Eliav points out in a letter to the RIOC board, protesting his dismissal after 15 years, legal fees routinely paid out to firms representing RIOC in court are mountainous. And Roosevelt Islanders foot all those bills, too.
And because super-secret RIOC has not released any documents, we don’t know the baseline cost of the Chubb deal.
Annual Budget Matters
Another revelation gathered from Eliav’s letter and court filings is that RIOC appears to carry two sets of books. One is for public disclosure; the other, with far greater detail, for internal workings.
Eliav suggests that the Hochul/Haynes administration began giving the board – and the public – a general summary budget for approval that obscured important data.
The summary budget did not cleanly itemize executive salaries as it had in the past, which, Eliav says, relieved the board of its duty to scrutinize payrolls. In addition, material we received from an anonymous source suggests that Haynes used this to hide huge pay increases for himself and loyalists awarded without review.
There are also an emerging questions about low and no-show jobs padding the budget without any accounting over where the money really goes.
The board meeting will be publicly videoconferenced on Thursday, June 23rd, at 5:30 p.m. Although no link has yet been provided, anyone wishing to make a comment that will be read to the board before the meeting can do so via this link.
Toss in a few bucks for our expenses…
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