We have questions for Bryant Daniels, the new Communications Director RIOC hired in March but didn’t announce until last week. We’ll keep them to five, although we have more. How will Daniels impact, help or hurt relations between RIOC and an estranged community?
by David Stone
Because the hiring of Bryant Daniels marks a high point for the Haynes/Hochul administration at RIOC, a shot at improving conditions arises. Daniels’s experience and training make him the most promising manager coming on board since John O’Reilly in 2019.
Exercising his abilities in a screwed-up milieu accumulated since Shelton Haynes took over the state agency will not be easy. Communications directors speak for their organizations and are characteristic of it, but there’s the problem.
It’s unlikely that Daniels has ever dealt with the volumes of dishonesty or the lack of transparency and accountability present within Haynes’s operation. Nor with the delicate egos or cutthroat internal politics present.
An informed local observer sets the under/over for his tenure at nine months, but The Daily finds that optimistic. Nonetheless, here are some questions for Bryant Daniels that will yield hints at his probable lifespan in this job.
Questions for Bryant Daniels
Will you tear down the media blockade that thwarts employees from answering questions? Some report being threatened with immediate dismissal if seen talking with anyone on an executive blacklist. (Yes, we are among those boycotted.)
Good reasons exist for this. First of all, blacklisting media pretty much guarantees the RIOC’s side of the story will never be heard. You can’t balance any teeter-totter when no one sits on the opposite side.
Behavior like this as you surely know from your work in politics is unprofessional, leading to the assumption that RIOC has something to hide. Maybe it does, but maybe it doesn’t.
Opening a gap of doubt is just foolish.
Will you become the next tool protecting the CEO? This question comes up because yesterday you composed an advisory about capital projects that was a fresh obfuscation of Shelton Haynes’s failure to launch.
You wrote, “First announced in 2021, the project is designed to study conditions and traffic patterns across all paved pedestrian and automotive roadways…” That’s false, although you may not have known that.
What Haynes promised was a traffic safety plan in 2021 after three people were struck by cars on Main Street. He never delivered, and later came the diversion you reported on.
Let’s keep this one simple: how will you deal with working under Akeem Jamal who is far less experienced and it shows? Jamal’s efforts, over eight months now, barely reach the beginner or intern level of professional communications.
That may be because he’s intimidated by Haynes and terrified of making an error, but it’s real.
How will you handle communicating in support of a staff with a history of lying, even to others in the organization?
A previous public relations officer shared that problem with me. (Yes, before Haynes, RIOC employees communicated freely with reporters.) How do you absorb the blow when internal resources con you into lying on their behalf?
It will happen. Integrity isn’t a strong value at RIOC.
Finally, our last question for Bryant Daniels… As Director of… Community Affairs, will you actually dip a toe or two into the community? Before Haynes, here’s what we expected from RIOC’s public relations staff:
This is not to say that we and other community members had no hassles with RIOC’s communications staff. McCauley, for one, could be a real flame thrower, but he could take as well he gave back.
RIOC vs local media should not be a zero-sum game. No one has to lose, but unless without shared respect, no one wins, including a community that needs facts and insight.