To get a handle on how RIOC’s staff eval system got twisted in the current model recall that the agency was once reasonably well run. Professionals managed key departments. But after Andrew Cuomo became governor, patronage appointments diluted performance. And for staff evaluations, “Things basically changed when Shelton joined the corporation,” according to a well-placed source. We will explain.
by David Stone
We decided to look further after getting yet another in a long series of freedom of information request dodges.
After Haynes abruptly fired RIOC’s single most valuable employee, John O’Reilly, we asked for his evaluations during his three-and-one-half-year tenure. Maybe they would give us a clue.
All responsible organizations, whether private or public, have functioning evaluation systems for staff. These guide personnel decisions, hirings and firings and payrolls.
RIOC once did too, but RIOC rebuffed our request.
Responding to an appeal for “copies of all performance evaluations for John O’Reilly from his starting work date in November 2018 until this termination this month.”
“Please be advised that the requested materials are exempt from disclosure under Section 87(2)(b) of the Public Officers Law (“POL”) as records disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
Sounds fair and reasonable, right? It isn’t.
How RIOC Staff Evals Work – or Not – Today
Next, we reached out to O’Reilly, asking if he might share the evaluations himself. We got a surprising answer.
“I read the letter attached and I find it a little odd they would use State guidance on what can or can’t be released as a justification not to provide evaluations,” he wrote.
“That is just smoke and mirrors. They just do not want to admit In the 3+ years I have been at RIOC, I NEVER had a written performance evaluation…..never.”
We turned to a resource with extensive insight into RIOC. What about RIOC’s staff evals?
Here’s how it was “…done normally in the past,” our insider explained via email.
“At the end of the fiscal year, each supervisor asked his/her staff to fill out the evaluation form. Employees highlight their achievements for the past year and note their aspirations for the coming year.
“The supervisor then reviews the submission and rates the employee’s performance using various metrics on a 1-5 scale. The supervisor also provides written feedback, commenting on the employee’s performance and making recommendations.
“The employee would then discuss the supervisor’s comments and respond. In the end, the employee signs the completed evaluation and hands it back to the supervisor, who forwards it to Human Resources.
“If the overall grade that the employee received was above average (i.e. 3 or above), he/she was entitled to a performance-based increase, which in a normal year would be 3%. This was in addition to the COLA increase.”
All in all, a neat and tidy system similar to what successful organizations do.
But Then Along Came Haynes
“Things basically changed when Shelton joined the corporation,” we were told.
“…no evaluations were done (after Haynes arrival) and several following years. Claudia McDade, the former HR Director, who knew and respected the process, was forced to leave, and Tajuna Sharpe was brought in to replace her. She is basically Shelton’s yes man.”
A disgruntled employee? Maybe, but it jibes with what we heard from O’Reilly.
“Shelton promised me one this past April but it was not done,” O’Reilly wrote in an email.
“We were all pushed to evaluate our staff which is an annual requirement, but again I was never offered that opportunity. Note, however, I did receive the annual COLA increase of 2% and a performance raise at the excellent level of 3% each April including this past April just several months before being terminated.
“I was also given a one-time increase in May of 2021 for outstanding performance during the pandemic.”
On what basis were these and other payroll decisions made, if not staff evals?
A Former Staff Member Had An Answer
“Of course, they prefer to be able to fire people upon Shelton’s whim and caprice (and he is very capricious), and having positive performance reviews for staff makes it so much harder to do.
”For example, how can you say you fired someone for incompetence if you gave them a stellar review just a month ago? And for Shelton, firing is like breathing. It’s necessary for his survival.
“If he can’t fire competent staff who doubt his abilities, then the jig may be up. On the other hand, not having a record of incompetence, makes it difficult to justify firings and promotions.”
This too jibes with the flood of management departures under Haynes’s watch. Many of the staff losses, according to one former manager, are failures “to kiss the ring.”
And as we reported earlier, another confirming fact is that the string of lawsuits hitting RIOC led to their insurer dropping them at any rate.