Why Is He Still Here? Part Four: Shelton Haynes in the CEO Chair

Why Is He Still Here? Part Four: Shelton Haynes in the CEO Chair

It was a cataclysm shaking Roosevelt Island. A sunny Friday began with Susan Rosenthal in RIOC’s CEO chair, but by rush hour, Shelton J. Haynes settled there. Misconduct and violations peppered the transition. It had all the signs of a secretly planned event with many people complicit.

Was Haynes one of them? Did this murky affair open the door to years of failure under new managemen? Roosevelt Islanders who pay almost all of RIOC’s bills have a right to know.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News


Sometimes, images show the differences best…

Before Shelton J. Haynes became CEO…
And Southpoint Park after Haynes led the destruction of a once quiet community retreat.

Haynes denied his pivotal involvement in Roosenthal’s sudden removal, but faith in that claim eroded over time The signs were there right away if you looked for them.

One key question stuck in my mind:

If he was innocent and the painful shakeup took him by surprise, why did he have a reorganization plan set and ready to move?

Within a couple of weeks or less, Haynes promoted longtime pal Altheria Jackson as Chief Operating Office, a job for which she was almost comically unqualified.

Then, Public Relations Officer Terrance McCauley found himself supervised by Erica Spencer-EL. McCauley had over a decade of successful PR experience under his belt. Spencer-EL had none.

These along with other changes added to hunches of a racially charged succession at RIOC. African American employees got unwarranted promotions while Caucasians were fired or demoted.

Haynes himself stepped up only after a Caucasian female – Rosenthal – lost her job under circumstances not just mysterious but clearly unethical. As we wrote in Part Three, what kind of man eases into the CEO chair under conditions like these? Especially when it’s your friend and mentor being damaged…?

In hindsight, the handwriting predicting turmoil and failure was already on the wall.

Before Taking the CEO Chair

Haynes was not universally liked by RIOC’s staff. Early on, a subordinate frustrated with his management told him that she disliked working for him. For that, she was fired the next day. Another 17-year veteran also made her distaste clear, asking not to be assigned to work with him. She also was later fired, her long record of satisfactory service notwithstanding.

Those kinds of dismissals, many damaging successful careers before RIOC, continue to this day.

“The point,” one RIOC veteran says, “it’s a dictatorship on the Island.  Kiss the ring, bend the knee or you are out. 

“No sense of free speech or democracy. He is a tyrant. Honor him and, now, honor the king or off with your head. It’s amazing we have gotten to that point and no one cares. And he has ruined careers for his personal benefit. What doesn’t Albany see……well??????”

Albany sees all of it, we believe but doesn’t care enough to act. We will consider that shortly.

Was Haynes Party to a Racist Plot Against Rosenthal?

For sure, there was a plot out of Albany targeting Rosenthal and ultimately benefiting Haynes. Governor Cuomo’s top operators, Melissa DeRosa and Richard Azzopardi, according to a sworn statement, took part and so did RIOC board chair RuthAnne Visnauskis.

Visnauskis heads Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) with oversight over RIOC.

The way this went down birthed a field of red flags.

Although Rosenthal knew she was being investigated, she was not allowed to see any of the evidence or given a chance to defend herself. In fact, she found out about her dismissal the same way almost everyone else did. That is, she was blindsided by an unethical press release sent exclusively to the New York Post by Azzopardi.

That violated New York State Policy, but as Cuomo’s #1 henchman, Azzopardi didn’t concern himself with that.

The board’s shocking participation

Without any public notice, that same day, RIOC’s spineless and now deeply unethical board approved Cuomo’s move without apparent discussion. Nothing was posted publicly as legally mandated, and no minutes were recorded.

What was the rush?

The only realistic answer: This was Juneteenth, and an African American man replaced a Caucasian woman in the CEO chair.

A chance to defend herself never came, before or after. As with other firings that followed, the board – Howard Polivy, David Kraut, Michael Shinozaki, David Kapell and Conway Ekpo – would not take her call or respond to email.

Enter the weasel zone.

When Visnauskis finally called a legally constituted meeting, the damage was already done, and Haynes’s reorganization plan was in action.

Although a much more experienced executive, a Caucasian, CFO John O’Reilly, was available, he was never considered. The former David Kraut merrily moved that Haynes be promoted, and the other alleged human beings went along. Unanimously. No discussion.

A Spotty Record, At Best

Some say Shelton J. Haynes’s greatest gift is sucking up others’ achievements and claiming them as his own. While this twisted gift may serve a need, it does so at a painful expense.

But his failures have been reported here extensively:

  • Losing Amalgamated Bank and failing to recruit a replacement.
  • Foolishly converting Southpoint Park into a trimmed-back tourist lure at the expense of vast wildlife losses while destroying Roosevelt Island’s last natural shoreline.
  • Overseeing an effort aimed at bankrupting the Wildlife Freedom Foundation after its leader led protests against RIOC.
  • Opening a COVID testing site so suspiciously that it sparked multiple misconduct complaints and ongoing investigations by the Inspector General.
  • Ruthlessly firing so many allegedly without good cause that he is now a named defendant in multiple lawsuits.
  • Sparking so many lawsuits and investigations that RIOC’s liability insurance carrier refused to renew their policy at any cost.

We could go on, but the message is already clear. With no genuine achievements and a growing mountain of legal fees for fighting lawsuits and investigations, why is he still in the CEO Chair?

Shelton J. Haynes: Why Is He Still Here?

Making a case for keeping him on can’t be justified on performance. But he’s still here for two reasons. One of them is disgusting and the other is only embarrassing.

First: The embarrassing reason Haynes stays in the CEO chair

 Ironically, all of the lawsuits, complaints and investigations are keeping him employed, we believe. 

His handlers in Albany realize that if they expose his abuses of power, finalize their IG investigations, and ultimately get rid of him, then not only would it look bad for them and Governor Kathy Hocul, but it would also bolster the claims of those former employees currently suing RIOC for very large sums of money. 

Acknowledging his improper behavior now would be a huge political and financial liability. We are fairly certain that the IG investigations are being stalled because Albany is afraid that publicizing his abuses would damage RIOC’s (and State’s) reputation and position in court(s).

Second: The Disgusting One

Determined on racially poisoned grounds to replace a Caucasian woman with an African American man, Cuomo fired the first shot putting Haynes where he is today. Governor Hochul has kept the wounds from healing.

While Hochul sang a pretty tune about a new era of openness and accountability in New York, she stood by while Haynes’s RIOC went completely the other way.

Haynes’s promotion, whether he knew it or not, was based on racism. Cuomo, then Hochul worked at retaining a necessary voting and fundraising demographic. And if you know anything about New York’s polluted politics, it’s that those things are more important than any work done in behalf of the general public.

But here’s the sickening part. By keeping this flawed man in office – paying himself more than New York, California or any other state pays their governors – the Albany powers imply that, as minorities go, this is the best you can get.

In the long run, protecting Haynes sets the goal of equal opportunities for all races and genders back decades. And Roosevelt Islanders will pay for it.

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