What’s New In Arthur Eliav’s Lawsuit Against RIOC, Haynes & Co.?


Filed back in late 2022, former RIOC staff attorney Arthur Eliav’s lawsuit against RIOC and its executives remains heated. While Eliav accuses them of several violations of law, the state’s attorneys push a familiar response that smacks of retaliation.

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Earlier this week, we updated readers on the whistleblower lawsuit being waged against RIOC by Erica Spencer-EL, Amy Smith and Jessica Cerone. There are at least three more hanging over its head, including a case brought by Eliav in federal court.

It’s repeated in an attack on Eliav.

In the whistleblower case, RIOC quickly retaliated with a defamation claim against the trio. Although it was later dropped without explanation, it exposes an inclination to punish critics.

Arthur Eliav’s Lawsuit

One year after being fired, Arthur Eliav filed a claim against RIOC as well as executives Shelton J. Haynes, Gretchen Robinson and Tajuna Sharpe. He alleges long-term discrimination against him as an observant, conservative Jew.

He then details being skipped over for promotions. A 17-year employee who interned at RIOC while finishing his law degree, he describes training no less than four Chief Counsels, including Robinson, who arrived with less experience or qualifications for the position that he has.

Tellingly, Eliav’s dismissal followed Chief Executive Haynes’s discovery that he’d properly advised Robinson to follow the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) in responding to a valid request from The Daily. (Robinson, according to Eliav, maintained a practice of delaying and/or not responding to our FOIL requests. Our experience is consistent with his allegations.)

The disclosures prompted a series of articles about possible legal and ethical violations, specifically involving Haynes and Swift Emergency Medical. Swift won a contract for setting up a COVID testing site – while having no experience – over other businesses that did.

Haynes demanded Eliav’s dismissal so immediately that he learned of it while home on a sick day. Sharpe, the human resources chief, did not provide any reason.

Eliav’s dismissal shortly followed.


Much as RIOC attacked the whistleblowers – rather than defend itself – the agency went after Eliav. In case you missed it, the tactic is straight out of the Cohen/Trump playbook.

RIOC’s attorneys, responding to Eliav’s lawsuit, did defend against his allegations. They wrote, for example, that Haynes could not have known about Eliav’s actions in the FOIL incident with Robinson because he didn’t know about it and, therefore, could not have retaliated.

But then came the counterclaims citing the Faithless Servant Doctrine along with breaches of fiduciary duty and loyalty. These reminded me of my young adult practice of throwing spaghetti at the wall until one strand stuck, meaning it was done.

Whether these charges have any chance of surviving are questions for the lawyers and courts, but Eliav’s defense appears to believe it’s a stall tactic complimented by retaliation.

Some of it just seems frivolous. Attacking Eliav’s lawsuit, demanding dismissal, RIOC attorneys cite a whistleblower letter sent by a group of employees to elected officials and the Inspector General. As evidence, they also mention a detailed letter Eliav sent to RIOC’s board.

But both of these documents came to life months after Eliav left RIOC, and there is no evidence of his having any authorship in the whistleblower complaint.

Finally, Why It Matters

Whether the numerous lawsuits facing Haynes and his executive team are winners or losers, Roosevelt Islanders pay dearly. The first million dollars in expenses, including attorney fees, were footed by residents through the RIOC tax. With at least four lawsuits and, at one point, over a dozen investigations pending, the state hires outside lawyers as a standard practice.

And the best insurance they could get for 2023 comes with a $750,000 deductible and an enormous rate hike – also footed by Roosevelt Islanders.

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