When Will They Apologize to the Many People and Community They Slandered?
In September, RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes and Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson-Haynes/Robinson – blew out a lawsuit attacking Roosevelt Island residents and elected and appointed public officials. All, they say, played a role in a racial attack on them. Then, a month later, they tried slamming the brakes. The state is having none of it.
by David Stone
Step One. Oops. Step Two. Stop
“It is true that beauty is only skin-deep – but ugly goes clear to the bone.”Dorothy Parker
As reported earlier, Haynes/Robinson filed an accusation-laden lawsuit charging racial discrimination against five state employees. But they threw a whole host of others, including this writer, into the bucket of shame.
You could almost hear it hitting the wall. How much would stick?
Questions arose instantly about the timing and ballooned when, less than a month later, they asked for a stay – of their own lawsuit… Wait for it… Because of their own mistake.
I write on behalf of Plaintiffs Shelton J. Haynes and Gretchen K. Robinson (“Plaintiffs”) to respectfully request that this Court stay proceedings pending the issuance of a Notice of Right to Sue Letter (“the Notice Letter”) by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).Attorneys for Haynes and Robinson
Best in New York City – Bread & Butter Market, Main Street, Roosevelt Island
The EEOC Right to Sue Letter is required prior to filing racial discrimination lawsuits in federal court. In an apparent, inexplicable rush, they filed without one or even requesting one.
Now, they asked that everyone cool their heels while they asked for one, a process that normally takes six months. No reason was offered for the error.
New York State to Haynes/Robinson: Not So Fast
“The request should be denied because Plaintiffs, under no time constraint, brought this case against five public employees in an attempt to skirt the statutory requirement to exhaust administrative remedies, and now seek to delay Defendants from rebutting serious accusations.” the state’s attorneys pointed out in response.
“Defendants are government employees who are the subjects of serious allegations of wrongdoing. The lawsuit appears intended to inhibit Defendants’ ability to execute the duties of their offices…”
What About All the Others Slandered?
The state’s rebuttal concerns only their own officials, rightfully because no one else got sued. But Haynes and Robinson accuse numerous named and unnamed Roosevelt Islanders and public officials in their filing.
Who’s looking out for them and the damage to their reputations?
RIOC’s lackadaisical board finds these malicious accusations inconsequential and reportedly tried promoting them.
And while we’re on that topic, in full disclosure, I should add that I’m aware of only a single act of overt racism here during my 30+ years on Roosevelt Island. And that came out of the mouth of a current RIOC board member. That member is Haynes/Robinson’s most ferocious defender today.
Funny how the real world turns, isn’t it?
New York Moves for Dismissal
A week ago today, state attorneys filed a request for immediate dismissal of Haynes/Robinson’s lawsuit, puncturing its very foundation:
- Defendants’ alleged actions (or, more often, decisions not to act) reflect basic principles of good governance. They do not constitute an orchestrated campaign of discrimination and retaliation, as Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges.
- Plaintiffs—the President/CEO and General Counsel of a public benefit corporation—do not, and plausibly cannot, claim that Defendants have hiring or firing authority over them. And because Section 1983 similarly presupposes a showing that Defendants employed or otherwise exerted supervisory control over Plaintiffs, those claims likewise should be dismissed.
- Second, even if the Complaint could support an inference of discriminatory intent, the claims still should be dismissed because Plaintiffs have not alleged an adverse action reflecting a “materially adverse change” in employment… Plaintiffs continue to serve as RIOC executives with the same compensation and titles, and thus have not plausibly incurred “materially adverse changes” like “termination of employment, a demotion evidenced by a decrease in wage or salary, a less distinguished title, a material loss of benefits, [or] significantly diminished material responsibilities.”
- Finally, the adverse actions alleged simply reflect adherence to principles of good governance and are not “reasonably likely to deter a person from engaging in protected activity.”
“Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety.”
The assortment of flaws weakening Haynes/Robinson’s claims may lead to dismissal in the next few weeks, but the damage is done.
Roosevelt Island, where racial discrimination was always at a low level, is now embroiled in a high-profile case in which the community at large stands accused.
The lack of guardrails – a wimpy board with no idea of what the members’ legal responsibilities are, state oversight so intrusive it disables local authority and a profound, enduring lack of democracy – nurture these things.
Dismissing this lawsuit would be a start, but healing and correction require much, much more.