Doesn’t every boy grow up wanting to be the target of an official assault on free speech…? Well, no, maybe not, but it happened anyway. Buffoonish exposure spilled like with a rip in your shorts in September when RIOC executives threw a Hail Mary lawsuit at their state overseers.
No honor among thieves – or racists – here.
by David Stone
It’s not anything I ever wanted.
As a kid, I wanted to twirl sidewinders like Don Drysdale and smash fastballs like Duke Snider. Later, I wanted to write prose like Bob Dylan wrote lyrics.
Becoming fuel for an official assault on free speech was not a dream, but all things considered in America today, I shouldn’t be surprised. But witnessing the worst excesses of “protected class” status is too depressing for any silver-lining.
Intimidation by Lawsuit: Weaponizing the Courts
When I read through the Shelton Haynes/Gretchen Robinson lawsuit, the first thing catching my attention was that, although I’m a primary target of the official slander, they call me simply “…a local blogger.” The angry duo gave everyone else more detail.
While I confess to being a disappointed Yankee and still a proud Buffalo Bills fan, I’m also the primary writer, editor and publisher of The Roosevelt Island Daily. Nowhere in the wordy, woe-is-me attack on over a dozen individuals is The Daily mentioned.
Is this an insult or is the dynamic duo fearful of admitting their assault on free speech is partly an attack on a news source, the kind of thing we see in Oklahoma and Alabama to national disgust?
Off on the Wrong Foot
Forming the base of the lawsuit’s foundation, Haynes and Robinson say, “Haynes’s rise to power in becoming CEO and President of RIOC was historic as very few African Americans have held such positions in the RIOC hierarchy.”
What most civil servants would phrase as “taking responsibility,” they see – tellingly – as a “rise to power.”
And the title for the section in the lawsuit…?
Haynes’s Ascension to RIOC CEO and President Caused a Racist and Defamatory Backlash.
“Many members of the Roosevelt Island Community were outraged by Rosenthal’s ouster,” plaintiffs say, “and unfairly blamed Haynes for it.”
They continue, “One of the loudest voices of outrage has been Stone.”
It’s a bad sign, in my opinion, when you lie twice straight out of the gate.
In the real world where we have subways, warm summers and big buildings, nobody but nobody blamed Haynes. Everyone I know blamed Cuomo for a stunt that played to a racist audience, smacking a Caucasian woman aside in favor of a man of color – on Juneteenth.
As this lawsuit sets both feet in this falsehood of Haynes as victim, it sets the stage for ripened fields of bilge that follow.
The fact is that, until months later when lawsuits targeting Haynes and Robinson exposed their intimate involvement, there was no reason for blaming either.
Robinson was quoted commiserating with Rosenthal, who recruited her, afterward.
And when I met with Haynes a month after Rosenthal’s firing, he told me that he was taken aback by it. Out of town, dealing with a family matter, he said he heard about it from long-distance telephone calls. Convincingly, he said that he believed she deserved nothing worse than “a slap on the wrist.”
He even demonstrated the slap as he settled into a chair behind his desk.
Soon After, Though, the State Approved Assault on Free Speech Took Its First Baby Steps
On a spring day in 2021, with a witness present, Haynes angrily told me that he shut down communications with me because he disliked my retweeting a post of his.
This was a chance meeting while out for a walk along the East Promenade near Southpoint.
He said nothing about racism and neither had he or anyone else at RIOC ever objected to any article or asked for a correction.
He actually said, “You know when our friendship ended?” Then, he went on with a rationale that mainly demonstrated his lack of understanding of how social media works.
And I told him he was just “looking for a reason” as he stormed off.
But according to the Haynes/Robinson lawsuit, he’d been griping to Governor Cuomo’s executive chamber about a hostile racial climate as far back as October 2020.
None of that reached any of us until the 2023 lawsuit. The state went along with it though, never demanding evidence as the sickness swelled, as far as we know, inviting the assault on free speech to ferment.
Haynes had only been in office since June, and his and Robinson’s roles in Rosenthal’s dismissal were not yet known. But his secret complaints about racism coincided with Rosenthal’s initial lawsuit against RIOC.
That’s when the race card first slipped out of the deck.
Haynes and Robinson repeatedly refer to themselves as part of a “protected class” in their lawsuit. Did that mean they believed they were protected from criticism too?
There is zero evidence given of any racist content pointed at them by anyone, not even in their lawsuit; so, what was that about?
A treasured political tactic is turning the tables after being accused, and that might be what we’re looking at here.
A Bald Racist Gambit – Unchecked
What we learned from Rosenthal’s lawsuit and the state/RIOC follow-up is that a crucial piece justifying her dismissal was an alleged recording someone made. The state claims it features her using the “n” word as well as some sexually charged comments.
The unidentified employee who made that recording played it back for the state investigator after less substantial charges against Rosenthal failed. It was fatal.
That was sad, but not entirely surprising because, as one businessman who knew Rosenthal well confided, “Susan has no filter.”
Although I’d never heard anything out of line from her in many conversations, her freewheeling spirit is what many residents liked best about her. She was real. Genuine.
But even as the recording’s source was gradually revealed as Haynes, whom Rosenthal mentored, its storyline fell apart.
From several sources, including court records, a narrative gradually emerged of Haynes using an iPhone to record a call on his office speakerphone. RIOC employees say he played the recording back for other African-Americans, undermining Rosenthal.
That’s how the state investigator found out about it. When she contacted him, she reported – while still keeping Haynes anonymous – that he played the recording back, apparently over the telephone.
Even though conveyed through multiple devices of unknown quality, the recording involved Rosenthal, the investigator said, claiming she recognized her voice.
This wouldn’t stand a chance in court, of course, but it gets even worse.
In a FOIL response, RIOC claims it doesn’t have the recording, but since it was made on company time, it would belong to them if it existed at all.
Bald, Painful Racism
Significantly, there is no concrete evidence of any such recording, made by Haynes or anyone else. When challenged in the discovery stage of Rosenthal’s lawsuit, the state fiercely resisted producing it.
Its existence remains uncertain. What is certain is the anti-Caucasian racism exercised by the state in attacking Rosenthal.
Not only was Haynes not punished for secretly recording his boss, then playing the damaging content back to other African-American employees without ever voluntarily reporting it to Employee Relations, as required, but he was rewarded with the job Rosenthal lost.
Another African-American employee, also a manager, coughed up a claim of sexually charged statements by Rosenthal. But that incident was two years in the past and also unreported until used against Rosenthal. That manager was not punished.
Complicit in this were several state officials who knew all the details along with RIOC’s pathetic, superannuated board of
enablers… er, directors. Not only did this gang play along, but they never allowed Rosenthal one minute to defend herself, forcing her into a name-clearing lawsuit.
An unsurprising situation, given the circumstances and the ethics of the individuals involved…
Haynes and Robinson Try Turning the Tables and Use Me as a Pivot
In a semi-hilarious gambit that blames any and all critical coverage on racism, Haynes and Robinson say this in their lawsuit:
“Since Haynes took over in June 2020 through June 2023, Stone has posted approximately 21 articles per month about RIOC.” That sounds right. 30 days in most months, and with RIOC being central to the community life, it makes sense. That alone ranks it astronomically truer than the rest of the fanciful garbage.
“Haynes has been in his role of Acting and Permanent CEO and President of RIOC for approximately three years, or approximately 750 business days,” the lawsuit calculates.
“Of those approximately 750 days, Stone has posted 532 articles about him, 98% of which were negative and/or demonstrated racial animus.”
This one is, of course, ridiculous. Haynes is, in my opinion, a dull, unimaginative individual who never warranted that much attention. No evidence of such intensive coverage is offered.
But since he appears to think everything is about him, that may explain the miscue.
The “racial animus” claim is libelous. Haynes offers no evidence of any of it – because there isn’t any.
“In that same time,” the narrative stumbles along, “Stone posted 83 articles about Robinson, 84% of which were negative”
And I’m sitting here wondering what about Robinson would inspire anything more than a long nap. “83 articles?” Really? Show me.
Yet the twosome expands on that fiction with more.
“For comparison, from 2016 through June 2020 (during Rosenthal’s tenure), Stone wrote approximately 1 article per month about RIOC, 2% of which were negative.”
I bet Susan wished that were true or even close to it.
The One Thing That Made Me Smile
Haynes and Robinson claim, “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.”
While this is paranoid, loony bin stuff, I was a little flattered that they believed I had such clout. I don’t, not by any means. So, why are they piling it on?
Playing the victim is self-propagating, but shouldn’t reality be taken into account?
Playing the Race Card Again in Their Assault on Free Speech
“As a result of this racist backlash – which never existed during the prior RIOC administrations run by White individuals…” Why would it? But it adds some oomph to the otherwise preposterous whining.
After running through all the investigations Haynes and Rosenthal say I spurred and the resulting hostile environment, they toss in yet another breathtaking claim.
“None of the RIOC administrations run by White individuals had ever encountered such treatment.”
Have they ever met Frank Farance, now a Haynes supporter, but once the author of numerous, longwinded attacks on Rosenthal and her predecessor, Charlene Indelicato?
To anyone willing to read, Farance demanded investigations and immediate resignations/firings over a variety of alleged corrupt practices. He cc-ed every public official, large and small, from Albany to the tip of Long Island.
As for The Daily, we pointed both barrels at how Rosenthal handled the destruction of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program, knuckled under to Manhattan Park in a submetering conflict and misled the community over years of contaminated water in water fountains caused by RIOC negligence.
Haynes was there for all of it and was never accused of any wrongdoing as seriously as Rosenthal. He has a right to his opinion, of course, but not to his own reality.
Intimidation: The Ultimate Assault on Free Speech
“On or about February 1, 2022,” Haynes and Robinson “informed the Chamber that RIOC intended to engage outside counsel and a crisis management team to advise RIOC on how to best address Stone’s targeted attacks against RIOC’s minority executives and staff.
“This report also noted that Stone’s attacks and barrage of FOIL requests and complaints have negatively affected employee productivity and morale.”
On company time, using public money, Haynes and Robinson “…compiled a dossier of Stone’s articles to measure how frequently he disparaged RIOC minority executives.”
So, Big Brother looks over your shoulder and creates “a dossier” that confirms the official story and then threatens a lawsuit using more state money in their assault on free speech.
While it’s true that, as we find later, state officials blocked Haynes and Rosenthal, it’s also true that I was never contacted. Just like Rosenthal, I had no chance to defend myself and, in fact, was kept in the dark about this assault on me and my integrity.
Is this what we pay governments for? Intimidation and secrecy? Backroom dealings with freelancing managers?
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