No Summer Off for RIOC’s Board: Is There An Unexpected Emergency Now?


What’s the emergency? When RIOC closed its June board meeting, the schedule called for the next on September 14th – after a summer off. But suddenly, this week, they announced a meeting for Monday, August 7th, made up of business hidden in executive session.

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Of course, RIOC failed – as it always does – to notify local media with any advance notice. And the public got similar treatment. As we’ve seen numerous times, RIOC’s executives and board operate under rules of their own, not state laws or guidelines.

But these violations are more concerning because critical issues appear on the table for a state agency already in trouble. Their top financial officer resigned just when he is most needed while maintenance needs are neglected and primary operations are hemorrhaging cash.

About the Apparent Emergency Board Meeting

The first oddity for this board meeting is it’s happening on a Monday. Almost always, they happen on Thursdays, and the less than seven days notice suggests pressing needs. Maybe emergencies needing board action in a rush.

After a motion for going into executive session – public and media shut out – the meeting starts with “proposed, pending or current litigation.”

The specific litigation goes unmentioned, but RIOC and/or its executives are currently being sued by…

  • Ousted President/CEO Susan Rosenthal
  • Fired Staff Counsel Arthur Eliav
  • Fired Communications Director Erica Spencer-EL
  • Fired Public Relations Director Amy Smith
  • Fired Community Liaison Jessica Cerone
  • The Estate of Mohammed Shakib Chowdhury who drowned in the Sportspark pool

These are just the main lawsuits, but there are numerous others active and likely some of which we are not aware.

There is no indication as to which litigation is up for discussion.

The More Mysterious Item

Item number 2: “the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or
corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation.”

That’s a mouthful of nothing specific, but one informed observer believes that the resignation of comptroller and assistant CFO Daeman Di Stefano may have provoked the meeting.

After the CFO John O’Reilly, who led RIOC through the COVID crisis, left less than a year ago, he was not replaced. And RIOC did not promote Di Stefano.

This leaves the state agency without finance leadership at a critical time in budget development. Standard practice requires board approval of a proposed budget in September before a final version goes to Albany in preparation for the next year.

But revelations from the numerous lawsuits and more than a dozen investigations looking into RIOC operations may also have turned up concerns about current staff. Keep in mind that board action is not required for hiring or firing clerical staff. This is a manager or executive.

We’ll not speculate any further because RIOC reveals so little in public, making it an inappropriate guessing game. Maybe we’ll learn more on Monday.

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