The search for Seldom Seen Shelton J. Haynes, RIOC’s chief executive, has little in common with the popular Where’s Waldo? game. For one thing, Where’s Waldo was fun, a challenge for your visual perceptions. The search for Haynes is more critical because of the perception that his state agency is a rudderless ship.
by David Stone
The Roosevelt Island Daily News
Noting that the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation‘s chief executive is bunkered on the second floor of Blackwell House isn’t enough anymore because the incredibly shrinking Shelton finally vanished.
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Last known sighting: December 2nd, a brief cameo at the Holiday Tree Lighting.
During most of his time there, he stood back on the sidelines. Alone. But well-dressed.
Since then, for vague reasons, he skipped the December, end-of-year board meeting, handing over the task of reading his President’s Report to Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson. It was mostly blather, but in one unintentionally hilarious turn, he reported meeting with City Council Member Julie Menin and someone at the MTA. The funny part? Instead of bringing along a lawyer, he brought his least experienced or qualified manager: Communications AVP Akeem Jamal.
The youthful Jamal did not communicate anything about the meeting or its results.
So, where exactly is Seldom Seen Shelton J. Haynes?
After ending the year with a nonappearance, Haynes also skipped a January alleged community planning meeting for updating Blackwell Park. Here again, there was a vague note that he was inexplicably unavailable and maybe streaming it from home.
He had no other influence on the meeting he allegedly arranged on short notice, bragging of its importance. And we didn’t hear anything from him afterward nor from anyone else at RIOC, the state agency that never gets it wrong.
Adding icing to the cake of mystery, a board meeting scheduled for today – February 9th – was unaccountably canceled, not postponed, last week. So, no scheduled Seldom Seen Shelton until the next board meeting on March 16th at the earliest.
ONE: The vanishing of Haynes may be easily explained as part of a predictable sequence. It started really with his failure, in 2021, to show up for a ceremony honoring public safety officers who died of COVID while serving the community.
While that was embarrassing, worse yet was an event recognizing the 20th Anniversary of September 11th, 2001. Although it was known by then that outdoor transmission wasn’t a threat and there was no state mandate, Team Haynes discouraged public attendance based on COVID infection fears.
In the year and a half since then, RIOC shrunk every traditional community event and held a Halloween Parade and Fall for Arts Festival only after pressure from residents. Behind closed doors, he tried canceling both.
“I don’t find his disappearance so unusual,” an employee said. “He was never very engaged, even when Susan was still there. He regularly missed board meetings and had his directors carry the water for him.”
TWO: “He’s ill.” We’ve heard this excuse for Haynes’s routine absences so often – including at least three COVID infections – we put trust in neutral long ago. Seldom Seen Shelton pays himself more than the State of New York pays Governor Hochul. You’d expect better attendance.
THREE: “Maybe they gagged him while the investigations are going on,” speculated one authority with skin the game.
A RIOC executive shared the news that there were thirteen existing investigations as of last summer. None that we are aware of have been closed while some involve Haynes directly.
“And that doesn’t count the lawsuits,” the executive added.
All this might grind anyone into invisibility, even if completely innocent.
A significant question – who is “they?” Governor Hochul’s executive chamber which pulls RIOC’s levers from afar? Or RIOC’s or his own personal attorney?
It’s hard to guess with so much of what goes on at RIOC so shrouded. But RIOC-watchers should note that, for the most part, the numerous outside attorneys working on defending RIOC and Haynes get paid by you know who. That is, Roosevelt Islanders through funds collected for the state agency’s operations.
That kinda takes the fun out of it…
To be continued…
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