Last month, RIOC hired a lightly experienced Akeem Jamal as an Assistant Vice President. In 2019, he was charged as a drunk driver. Then, before that dust settled, they fired Vice President/Chief Financial Officer John O’Reilly for having one beer during a business lunch. Among other things, this resurfaces charges of racial discrimination within the Shelton J. Haynes administration. The disparities are even more startling than they appear at first glance.
by David Stone
CFO O’Reilly has been acknowledged for making critical improvements in RIOC’s finances, enhancing investment revenue and guiding the state agency through pandemic stresses. With underequipped President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes teetering in a job far beyond his abilities, O’Reilly regularly seemed like a kind of de facto chief at RIOC.
That fact chafed on Haynes. “He seemed threatened by John,” an insider told The Daily. “There was ALWAYS turmoil between the two, mainly because John questioned Shelton’s prior experience and education.”
Objective observers wondered why the agency’s board (directed by Albany handlers under Governor Cuomo) promoted Haynes over O’Reilly after Susan Rosenthal was fired. O’Reilly’s experience was far superior to Haynes’s, and Haynes never managed anything approaching that kind of responsibility.
Moreover, Haynes was considered by some a divisive, insecure figure at RIOC.
Quietly, RIOC hired Akeem Jamal as Assistant Vice President for Communications in August. It’s not known whether RIOC’s inattentive Board of Directors got involved. But the few Roosevelt Islanders who found out early on did so because his name showed up on the website under Media Inquiries.
Because of the secrecy, we were late finding out about his history as an accused drunk driver and other unflattering reports. Less than three years ago, after partying for hours with his boss, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, Jamal crashed into another driver while going the wrong way on a one-way thoroughfare at around 5:00 a.m.
His blood alcohol level was measured far above the legal limit, according to the police. Jamal was injured seriously. So was the other driver – who was not charged but filed a reckless driving lawsuit against Jamal. It joined two others already pending over an earlier accident.
And there were published concerns over Jamal’s personal behavior on the job at Yonkers City Hall. Just a year after the drunk driver accusations, he flouted face mask-wearing rules and was accused of being a “superspreader.”
“Most appalling is that Akeem Jamal, employed by the Mayor’s Department of Communications, forewarned ad nauseam to wear a mask, has chosen to disregard such admonitions,” the Tribune wrote.
Like Haynes before him, Jamal took down his LinkedIn profile after investigations started. LinkedIn Is a job-hunting site, but it’s more often a place for posting professional achievements. Or, bragging rights really.
With Haynes, The Daily assumed he had something he did not want checked out. Suspicions persist that he never graduated from college, as claimed, and multiple informants accuse him of inventing his work experience in Georgia. Plus, a transparency proposal he sent to Governor Hochul failed to meet standards for composition common among high school graduates.
The same may be true for Jamal. His drunk driver charges can’t be removed because they are in news articles and court records not under his control. So, what else is there that we don’t know about? How thoroughly was this guy vetted?
Here’s a hint.
According to news accounts, Jamal began working for Mayor Spano when he was 18, apparently straight out of high school, assuming he graduated. Working full-time since then, he probably has not had time for college, but what did his LinkedIn profile or his RIOC resume say?
Were there claims on his LinkedIn profile that were, say, exaggerations? Or outright falsehoods? If not, why take down a well-established profile at all? Keep in mind now that, last year, Haynes fired 17-year veteran Erica Spencer-EL because a stale untruth was found on her resume from years before.
Would the same standards apply to Jamal and/or Haynes? How about Haynes’s sidekick Altheria Jackson?
Did Haynes hire a high school graduate for a six-figure salary as Assistant Vice-President without a college education or comparable experience? Did anyone vet his record as a charged reckless drunk driver before signing him on?
Keep in mind that this is RIOC. Political connections and patronage count more than ability and experience, it would not be a drop-the-mic revelation if the Haynes administration did all of that.
Double Standard? A Drunk Driver Versus…
Chief Financial Officer John O’Reilly had a beer over lunch with business associates from LiRo, a major RIOC contractor. LiRo had no complaint nor did anyone else about his work performance.
But, it is believed, Chief Counsel and Haynes suckup Gretchen Robinson caught a whiff and let Haynes know. But a sobriety test showed his blood level alcohol content was far below the legal limit for driving a car. It was, ironically, less than half of what Jamal’s was, according to the police, when they charged him as a drunk driver.
But for what would be a minor infraction – or no infraction at all – elsewhere, O’Reilly says he was fired. They took away his pension too. This for one of the most accomplished and effective managers RIOC ever employed.
Akeem Jamal, a man of color, remains on the job, earning six figures in a job for which he appears unqualified. John O’Reilly was held to a different standard, not one having anything to do with getting the job done.