Lawless RIOC Under Hochul/Haynes. Information Lock Down

Lawless RIOC Under Hochul/Haynes. Information Lock Down

“First sign of a terrible leader is that they hide behind their staff who is out in the front lines,” an insider observed. He referred to RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes and Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson. They “use that constantly” in evading accountability. The problem is more about what they’re hiding, though, than how they do it.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Was Hochul Lying or Just Out to Lunch?

June 2, 2015 – New York City – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul attend a screening at Lincoln Center of “The Hunting Ground.” Did she learn from the master? (Office of the Governor – Kevin P. Coughlin)

Shortly after taking office last year, new Governor Kathy Hochul pledged greater transparency among state agencies. Each, she promised, would publish guidelines about how they would improve information flow.

But with her team’s full knowledge, RIOC under Haynes went the other way. The agency with which Roosevelt Islanders are stuck became as transparent as a bucket of tar.

A media blackout was already underway. RIOC employees report a “Do Not Call” list compiled by Haynes. It includes The Daily as well as a handful of residents critical of his leadership – or lack thereof – as well as some business people.

Freedom of Information requests had become the only source of information about what was going on inside under Haynes’s management. Even that was weak because key documents subject to FOIL were always withheld.

Here’s how fired legal counsel Arthur Eliav describes the operations in his lawsuit claiming an improper dismissal:

Excerpt from Eliav’s sworn statement filed in his notice of claim:

28. 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.”

29. 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.

30. Towards the end of Robinson’s internally prescribed period, after consulting with Eliav, the assigned attorney requested that Sharpe* provide the requested, and required by law, information.

31. Robinson resisted turning over the requested, and required by law, information, suggesting at various points that RIOC (a) provide incomplete information; (b) ignore the plain obligations set forth by law; and (c) simply reference an unaffiliated website that purported to have certain of the requested information, but actually reflected a prior year’s budget information.

32. As a result of this back and forth, Eliav was forced to get further involved and emailed Robinson that RIOC had to abide by the law and provide the requested documents.

33. After significant back and forth, on or about November 19, 2021, Robinson finally agreed “reluctantly though” to allow for compliance with applicable law.

*Human Resources chief Tajuna Sharpe

Illegal But Worse Ahead

In Print of Digital, Right Here.

According to Eliav, Robinson’s evasive behavior and advocacy of worse were ethical failures. His resistance to this misconduct, he believes, was the proximate cause of his being fired, a week later.

Not only were Haynes and Robinson defying Hochul’s directives within a couple of months, but they were also firing people and getting away with it.

Eliav had fifteen years of RIOC service under his belt, including positive reviews, but he was let go without being given any reason. Within that same post-Thanksgiving week, 19-year veteran Karlene Jean and longtime manager Erica Spencer-EL were dismissed.

And as if wrecking peoples’ lives wasn’t enough, Haynes and Robinson slammed the door on freedom of information requests, all within Hochul’s view. As of May, this year, freedom of information materials have been 100% withheld.

What’s Hidden?

Vital pieces of information sought in our investigations are being withheld illegally by RIOC. Some are just procedural while others involved misconduct and possible criminal activity.

  • Documents concerning Haynes’s and other RIOC employees dealing with Swift Emergency Medical. An initial release of 30% to 40% of requested documents showed purchasing irregularities and slipshod oversight. After we reported it, RIOC has refused – with Eliav now out of the picture – releasing the rest.
  • A May, 2021, drowning in Sportspark raised questions about the management of the pool area, and an apparent coverup by RIOC followed immediately. RIOC refuses to disclose a single document, including known videos of the event.
  • Evidence of Haynes double-dipping in prohibited outside employment while pulling down six-figure salaries at RIOC.

These are the highlights. Other issues are alive, but since RIOC, with Hochul’s team’s approval, has declared itself no longer subject to Freedom of Information Law, we have ceased our requests and turned to other resources, like whistleblower reports and court filings, for information.

Finally

Based on information gleaned from Eliav’s sworn statements and direct experience supporting his accuracy, we have notified RIOC and its board that a complaint against Robinson will be filed with the court system in New York and the bar association.

After concluding that Governor Hochul has no intention of clamping down on RIOC and that there is little indication that her appointed Inspector General Lucy Yang is independent, we believe that reaching outside the state system is necessary.

Similarly, we notified RIOC and its board that we are compiling evidence of possible criminal activity for delivery to the Manhattan District Attorney.

RIOC and its executives are not above the law, although they and their Albany protectors may think so.

SPONSORED: HOME. ROOSEVELT ISLAND. WESTVIEW. NEW YORK CITY

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