While still awaiting the Inspector General’s response to our earlier complaints, we were shown evidence of misconduct by RIOC’s General Counsel Gretchen Robinson that couldn’t be ignored. She directed her allegedly illegal actions at the Roosevelt Island Daily in retaliation for reporting she didn’t like, according to a leaked court document.
by David Stone
About the Inspector General, Lucy Lang
Lucy Lang was appointed Inspector General by Kathy Hochul shortly after Hochul became governor. It was a sign that the Cuomo era of dodging accountability was over.
The job of the New York State Inspector General involves rooting out corruption, waste, and abuse in state government.
The office has been vacant for long periods during the past two decades. Under Eliot Spitzer, it was allowed to languish. Andrew Cuomo did not appoint an Inspector General until 2016, after years of criticism.
Lang’s appointment was widely praised. She had a reputation as an independent prosecutor, not beholden to any politician. Last year, she sought the office of Manhattan District Attorney, a race eventually won by Alvin Bragg.
She positioned herself as a reformer, but a New York Times article begged the question: “Lucy Lang has spent most of her career as a criminal-justice reformer. But is she too close to the system to bring about real change?”
She has a chance to answer that question now as IG.
The Complaint Against RIOC and Gretchen Robinson
For over a year, essentially from the time Shelton J. Haynes took control of RIOC, the state agency’s handling of freedom of information requests has been poor and probably illegal. When his predecessor was in place, responses were prompt and complete, even when the information made the state look bad, even dishonest.
But the point of freedom of information laws is to let the public know what government is up to. Haynes and Robinson seem to think they’re entitled to keep secrets. That, however, is not their call, but what was anyone going to do about it?
Under Haynes and Robinson, for example, a partial response to questions about the troubled Swift Emergency Medical COVID testing site sent red flags flying. Numerous potential incidents of misconduct needed a deeper look. But after The Daily’s initial reports, RIOC stalled on providing the rest of the information.
Similarly, the duo has not provided any documents or information regarding a drowning death in Sportspark way back in May 2021.
It was frustrating, but then, a fired RIOC staff attorney dropped a bomb. Or rather, an anonymous source gave us a copy of a court document drawn up by Arthur Eliav’s attorney. In black and white, it accuses Robinson of blocking The Daily’s FOIL requests in retaliation for unfavorable reporting.
Eliav’s Specific Accusations Against Robinson
“Shortly after the summary budget was made public in September 2021, a FOIL request was sent to RIOC from a local reporter, David Stone, seeking, inter alia, ‘a document listing all RIOC employees, including executives, and their annual pay.’
“In retaliation for Mr. Stone’s prior requests and sometimes unflattering articles about RIOC management, Robinson had developed an unwritten policy wherein all such requests were routinely subjected to a forty-five-business-day delay, often followed by several additional delays of similar duration, regardless of whether the responsive materials were, or should have been, readily available.”
If true, that’s unethical, but the greater concern is over why information and documents in RIOC’s possession need hiding. The situation before Eliav’s claims grew far worse. The state agency now essentially refuses to provide anything meaningful at all.
The accusations quoted above come from a Notice of Claim drawn up by Eliav’s attorney.
“RIOC improperly and routinely passed him over for promotion on the basis of his race, religion, and national origin,” the Notice reads.
“Eliav was further retaliated against in contravention of… Civil Service Law §75-b, as well as the other discriminatory bases set forth above, and… for supporting proper compliance with the Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) when RIOC leadership pushed for non-compliance.”
In short, Eliav says he battled Robinson as she resisted following the letter of the law. He won, and then, the Chief Counsel along with Haynes retaliated against him.
Eliav was fired without prior notice while off work on a sick day just after Thanksgiving in 2021. He had worked at RIOC for fifteen years.
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