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So, What Happened to the Haynes Tapes Used in Firing Susan Rosenthal?


Where are the Haynes tapes, if they ever existed at all? The state referred to them in justifying the immediate dismissal of then-President/CEO Susan Rosenthal at RIOC. That was in June 2020. But now, when asked, they say, “Please be advised that RIOC does not possess any records responsive to your FOIL request.” So, where are they?

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

About the Haynes Tapes

Responding to a lawsuit filed by Rosenthal, a state investigator claimed she heard her use offensive racial language in a recording made by an employee. The investigator did not identify that source, but numerous others have identified Shelton J. Haynes who immediately succeeded Rosenthal.

In December, Haynes talked with Rosenthal when she returned for the Nellie Bly monument she championed.

“I never heard the recording personally,” one staff member told The Daily. “I was only told about it by other staff members who told me that he played the recording for them.” Our source added, “I don’t know how the recording was made.”

That’s a problem for several reasons. The most significant being details from other sources asserting that Haynes played the recordings as a way of provoking distaste for Rosenthal.

And if the Haynes tapes are what our resources insist, he disobeyed New York State rules by failing to immediately report it. If he undermined his immediate superior with them instead, that blows up the primary infraction.

The Double Bind

For RIOC, the state and Haynes, no easy way out of this one is clear.

If Haynes made recordings of his boss that are racially insensitive, he ignored the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) requirements. Those require that managers immediately report misconduct.

But Haynes was never disciplined and, instead, received an immediate promotion. That’s a problem too because there was a much better-qualified candidate available. CFO John O’Reilly, who had decades of management experience, sat in shock as did others when, at the next board meeting, David Kraut instantly made a motion to promote Haynes.

There was no discussion, suggesting a previously arranged deal with Governor Cuomo’s office. And there was no discussion about Rosenthal’s dismissal nor any chance for her defending herself.

It was as strange as it appeared arranged.

Are the Haynes Tapes Real?

If they are, RIOC and the state went to great lengths, repeatedly refusing to turn them over in court discovery proceedings. Rosenthal’s attorney, Steven Storch, seized on this.

Although the state’s investigator said she heard at least one, the claim was dubious. Nothing about the tape is known from her sworn statement. As Storch points out, nobody knows how it was recorded, by whom, on what device or in what location.

It’s more than a little shakey, but making it worse, the investigator never visited Roosevelt Island. That means she heard the recording remotely, by phone or another device, but says she recognized Rosenthal’s voice from prior telephone calls.

I’ll add something personal here. I’ve talked with Rosenthal in her office and on the street. But I could not definitively identify her on a tape recording. That’s a preposterous claim that should have zero credence. It wouldn’t stand up in court for five minutes, especially since the Haynes tapes can’t be located.

But there’s another catch.

Who Owns the Recordings?

“A recording made in the course of business should belong to the corporation,” our legal consultant confirms. “But I don’t see anybody at the corporation going to Shelton and asking him to turn it over.”

That is, if the Haynes tapes exist at all, they belong to RIOC because they were made on company time. But RIOC “…does not possess any records…” of them.

So, where are they? If Haynes made them, does he still have them? Were they destroyed or never turned in? RIOC and the state have gone to great lengths to avoid answering.

” In a place like that (RIOC), with no oversight from the governor’s office or the board, the possibilities for corruption are endless.”

They are also far from defended or explained. 

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