Since this reporter is a primary target of the Haynes/Robinson lawsuit, we find writing about it an essential responsibility. This lawsuit was first reported by The Roosevelt Islander.
by David Stone
Named defendants in the lawsuit are Roger Maldonado, Tania Dissanayake, Diana Lopez, Alejandro Valella, and RuthAnne Visnauskas. Each is either a member of Governor Hochul’s Executive Chamber or employed at Homes and Community Renewal. Visnauskas is HCR Commissioner.
But the broad sweep swings much wider, accusing not just me but RIOC board members, unelected and elected public officials, over a dozen in all. All are role players in a grand scheme of racial discrimination targeting RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes and Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson.
Taken as a whole, the lawsuit reads like a narrative of frustration with conditions the plaintiffs say they are trapped in.
The Haynes/Robinson Lawsuit
“Many members of the Roosevelt Island Community were outraged by (Susan) Rosenthal’s ouster and unfairly blamed Haynes for it,” the narrative begins.
“One of the loudest voices of outrage has been Stone. Since Haynes replaced Rosenthal, Stone has written several baseless articles about RIOC’s staff and executives, often using racially charged language.
“Stone has posted 532* articles about him (Haynes), 98% of which were negative and/or demonstrated racial animus. In that same time, Stone posted 83* articles about Robinson, 84% of which were negative,” they say.
*Not an accurate number.
At The Daily, our position is that there is no such thing as a negative article. There’s reporting. That’s all. There’s either accuracy or inaccuracy, balance or imbalance. And we should add that, at no time during Haynes’s tenure, has anyone objected to any report or asked for a correction.
Since racial discrimination is an ugly accusation, we call your attention to the many articles about Roy Eaton (The Jackie Robinson of Advertising) and the groundbreaking writer Alice Childress, both Roosevelt Islanders.
Add to that numerous articles about the ills of racism, including specifically the effects on Billy Eckstine and Jackie Robinson.
So, is it possible that some motive other than racial discrimination was at play here?
In targeting articles in The Daily, the Haynes/Robinson lawsuit had more to say.
The racist backlash Stone has expressed has been supported by local elected officials who were either allies of Rosenthal or allies to supporters of Rosenthal, namely Senator Krueger and Assemblymember Seawright. Assemblymember Seawright has endorsed Stone’s racist articles on her social media accounts in the past, she pays to advertise on his blog, and has also published Stone’s articles in her constituent newsletters. Senator Krueger has taken an interview with Stone and has even posed for a photo with him. Since this endorsement and validation, Stone has been quoted in the New York Times, Crain’s Business New York, and Business Insider.Paragraph 45 of the Haynes/Robinson Lawsuit.
We never imagined we had such influence.
- There is no chance in the world that Rebecca Seawright ever endorsed “racist articles” by me or anyone else. That’s slander, plain and simple.
- If Seawright published any article by me, I’ve never seen it.
- As for “…she pays to advertise on his blog,” Seawright has advertised during her reelection campaigns, but is not a regular advertiser. (I wish she was. I could appreciate the income.)
- “Senator Krueger has taken an interview with Stone…” As a regular practice, The Daily offers Q&Ss giving prominent figures an unfiltered chance to make their views familiar to residents. Similar Q&A subjects include David Kramer, Jessica Lappin, Susan Rosenthal, Ben Kallos and José Serrano.
- “…and has even posed for a photo with him.” Simply untrue. I’ve only been in her company twice, once in passing at a Kathy Hochul election event and on Roosevelt Island Day. Someone may have snapped a photo for all I know while we chatted – for less than five minutes total.
We rebut these claims in defense of Seawright and Krueger, both exemplary public servants who have, according to Haynes and Robinson, upset them, although there is no evidence presented of any acts supporting racial discrimination.
We repeat: None.
Another Point of View
We asked an attorney friend to comment on the Haynes/Robinson lawsuit.
“Their basic argument is that some things happened to us that didn’t happen to other people,” the attorney said. “Those people were white and we are black. Therefore, it must be racism. That logic is idiotic. They make no allegations of actual racist behavior.”
But he added something else:
“The technical reason for which this complaint must be dismissed is because the alleged federal causes of action were not properly preceded by the right to sue letter from the EEOC. For that alone, the federal claims must be dismissed, and the case must be tossed out of federal court.”
If that’s true, then this lawsuit becomes something quite different but equally damaging to the community and its relationships.
Concluding: The Haynes/Robinson Lawsuit
Although The Roosevelt Islander attached the full lawsuit, we chose not to for a couple of reasons.
- First, deep in the narrative, Haynes and Robinson go into detail about what they claim are the reasons why one employee was fired. Not only does this deprive her or him of any chance of defending themselves, but it inappropriately discloses personal details that the Office of Employee Relations demands remain private. The employee is not a party of this lawsuit, making the disclosures totally gratuitous. This alone, we believe, should justify the immediate dismissal of both Haynes and Robinson.
- Internal details of conversations that state employees and other individuals thought were confidential are disclosed in versions rendered by the plaintiffs. This also violates state policies.
- Finally, the Haynes/Robinson lawsuit takes on new board members that they claim were hostile to them. Although Governor Hochul appoints all board members after vetting, Haynes and Robinson blame Seawright and Krueger. Here again, they publicly post details of conversations and emails thought to be confidential by the other participants.
Quoting from an individual with knowledge of state standards and practices: “I am speechless.”