Questions Raised Of Political Patronage and Cronyism In Stealth Appointment Of Non-Elected, Non-Resident To Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Board Of Directors By Resident - What Was Governor Andrew Cuomo Thinking?
Roosevelt Island resident Bill Long comments on this post:
Something stinks like rotting fish in the way the New York State Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo are attempting to bring back colonial rule to Roosevelt Island with the apparent naming of Salvatore Fererra, currently Executive Director of the Child School/Legacy High School, to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors....From Mr. Long:
Congratulations to Roosevelt Islander and to The WIRE (6/18/11 issue PDF File ) for their reporting on the process behind the latest RIOC Board appointment. Once again, Roosevelt Island residents have been "taken to school" on crony patronage in New York.It's a free county and everyone may not agree with this Blog or Mr. Long regarding the appointment of Mr. Fererra to the RIOC Board of Directors. For instance, a reader commented on post linked above:
Why did a Republican state senator from Brooklyn and a Democratic governor in Albany conspire to install a manipulative opportunist on the RIOC Board? This action is crony patronage at its worst. Despite the good work that RIOC staffers accomplish, the main reason that RIOC exists is to provide patronage appointments for New York politicians. Why should we care about holding elections for members of an organization that clearly exists more for the benefit of politicians than Roosevelt Island residents?
This episode shows that it is time for Roosevelt Island residents to adopt a radically different approach to their own self determination. If the Maple Tree Group or others wish to do some good, they should shift their focus from director elections to a bill to dissolve RIOC and replace it with a system of representative government that will benefit Roosevelt Island residents and serve as a model for the rest of New York State.
RI Wins said...Another reader disagrees with the statement from RI Wins:
It is possible the Governor did not appreciate the Board's ouster of Steve Shane, which was thought to be largely coordinated by Mr. Kalkin, the biggest advocate of the Master Lease concept, which Mr. Shane steadfastly opposed.
Now that Mr. Kalkin is gone, it remains to be seen if the Master Lease agreement will be executed after all.
Whatever happens to the Master Lease concept, no Governor would want to see his appointee -- RIOC Pres -- "fired" by the RIOC Board. The Governor appoints the RIOC President, and, logically, the Governor dismisses the RIOC President.
Gov. Cuomo does not make appointments without a reason.
There were Board members with expired terms lingering on the Board, and no pool of standby elected board members available from which to appoint new board members. Gov. Cuomo thus had no choice but to appoint a non-elected Board member, in this case appointing a particularly valuable, hard-working member of the community, Mr. Sal Ferrara, the director of the Child School.
This worthy appointment is a plus for RI - no matter which Board Member with an expired term Gov. Cuomo decided to dismiss.
Gov. Cuomo, in dismissing Mr. Kalkin, regains control over RIOC. Mr. Kalkin may have imagined he could always orchestrate the Board to do as he wished - in effect, dictate to the RIOC President. This indirectly challenged the State authority.
Plus, it cannot be easy for any RIOC President to function with in effect the threat of a Board voting as a bloc, ready to terminate the RIOC President seemingly at any time, over reasons that do not even need to be revealed by the Board.
Boards are not constituted to be the tools of one particularly active Board Member. Boards are forums where each Board member should have an equal say. A Board that is dominated by a particular Board member loses its validity as a group of independent-minded, equally empowered members.
So, thank goodness for Gov. Cuomo's action - and welcome Mr. Ferarra to the RIOC Board!
There’s been speculation in some of these posts that the Governor put Ferrera on the Board because he didn’t have a list of elected candidates to choose from. That’s nonsense. Senator Golden, from Brooklyn, wanted Ferrera on the board and pulled political strings to make it happen, with the obvious knowledge and consent of Ferrera. In the past when a seat opened up, the Governor’s office either left the incumbent there or consulted the local politicians for replacement candidates. For the last several years, our politicians have given the names of the candidates who had been elected. The Governor selected some, not all, of those people. In this instance, our local pols were deliberately kept in the dark and when they found out about this nomination, they successfully had it removed from the agenda of the Senate Finance Committee. After the session had been adjourned, in a backroom political deal, Senator Golden got it put back and then immediately passed it through the Senate. No list of Island candidates would have made any difference at all. This was a clear move by the Governor’s office to do a favor for Senator Golden and to reinforce to this community that our interests are irrelevant and he’s running the show. The real question is why would someone who supposedly has integrity want to play any part in this debacle by accepting the appointment?Here's a very nice sounding press release from Governor Cuomo's office.
If anyone believes that Ferrera knew nothing about these underhanded political shenanigans, they’re being naïve. But let’s assume they’re right and I’m the jaded one, now that Ferrera knows how he got this position, wouldn’t a person of integrity turn it down?
Addressing the post from RI Wins, the Governor does NOT appoint the RIOC President. It’s very clear in the RIOC By-Laws, which are public information, that the RIOC Board hires and fires the executives of the corporation. It even describes, by job title, who those executives are. In the past other boards accepted nominees from the Governor’s office and pretty much rubber stamped them into that position. This board, finally, stood up to that and took back the power given to them by law. I guess Cuomo didn’t like it, but what good is having an elected board if they’re going to allow Albany to continue to run the Island? We may as well go back to the old days and eliminate the time and effort it takes to put on an election.
Albany, NY (June 7, 2011)Very nice sentiments expressed in the statement. However, the statement is rendered meaningless and a cruel joke played upon the residents of Roosevelt Island with the appointment of the non-elected, non-resident, conflict ridden Sal Fererra to the RIOC Board of Directors.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today introduced the "Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011," to address major inadequacies in the current ethics system and restore public trust in government. The Governor's program bill establishes unprecedented transparency, strict disclosure requirements, and a strong independent monitor with broad oversight of New York State government.
"This legislation will help end an era of corruption in Albany that was fostered by a lack of transparency, oversight and enforcement," Governor Cuomo said. "This legislation will usher in a dramatic change in the way Albany does business and is a historic step in restoring the public's trust in government. I commend Majority Leader Skelos, Speaker Silver and their colleagues for their work on this bill and I look forward to its prompt passage and implementation."
Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said, "We're pleased that the Governor is handing up this program bill today, and look forward to strengthening New York's ethics laws for those who serve in both the State Legislature and the Executive branch. As a result of this historic ethics reform agreement, which was the result of months of hard work, we've taken another step forward in restoring the public's trust in its government. I thank the Governor and the Speaker, and Senators Lanza, Flanagan and Hannon, for their commitment to achieving a positive result for all New Yorkers."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "The overwhelming majority of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are hardworking, caring, public-spirited men and women of integrity. The agreed upon bill will ensure that our government is held to the highest standard by requiring more extensive financial disclosure and establishing serious penalties for those who violate the law. I commend my Assembly colleagues, particularly Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell for his leadership and efforts in crafting this legislation."
This excerpt from the editorial in the June 18 issue of Roosevelt Island's local newspaper, the Main Street WIRE (6/18/11 Issue PDF File), expresses the opinion of many Roosevelt Island residents concerning Mr. Fererra's appointment:
What was Governor Andrew Cuomo thinking?
This week, he appointed Child School Executive Director Salvatore Ferrera to a seat on the RIOC Board of Directors.
Apparently, he realized that there would be a Don’t you dare! reaction, because he did it without consulting his fellow Democrats who represent Roosevelt Island – Assemblymember Micah Kellner and Senator Jose Serrano. He did it without talking to anyone in the community. He did it quietly. He did it on the sly. It was a swift, sneaky move, obviously some sort of back-alley deal with the Republican State Senator from Brooklyn, Marty Golden....
This 2005 image is of State Senator Martin Golden (second from left) and then Xaverian High School President President Sal Ferrera (second from right) honoring the members and coaches of the Xaverian Varsity Basketball Team.
A meeting between members of Roosevelt Island's Maple Tree Group, the group that successfully lobbied for and organized the RIOC nominee elections, and Mr. Fererra
took place last Thursday afternoon at the Child School/Legacy High School. I attended as well.
Mr. Fererra was urged by Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President and Maple Tree Group Member Matt Katz and other members of the Maple Tree Group to decline or resign his appointment as a RIOC Director because his acceptance would undo 15 years of Roosevelt Island residents efforts to achieve some small measure of democracy and elected representation.
Mr. Fererra stated that he sought out the position of RIOC Director from a friend at the Governor's office, that he followed the procedures outlined by the Governor's Appointment office and that he had no idea of the long history of Roosevelt Island residents seeking the right to vote for RIOC Board members. Upon hearing Mr. Fererra's statement expressing ignorance of the Roosevelt Island RIOC Board election process, I suggested that perhaps that lack of basic knowledge about Roosevelt Island was in itself a reason why he was not qualified to be part of the RIOC Board which runs Roosevelt Island. If he does not know that basic fact, it is hard to find a reason why he should hold such a responsible position.
Mr. Fererra repeatedly asserted that his reason for wanting to join the RIOC Board was to better integrate the Child School/Legacy High School with the Roosevelt Island community for the benefit of all. He believes that the projects he hopes to initiate at the Child School, such as an Art Center at 504 Main Street, an equestrian center and a boat house will improve the lives for all Roosevelt Island stakeholders.
It was pointed out to Mr. Fererra that these Child School/Legacy High School projects he hopes to bring to Roosevelt Island are the very reasons he should not be a RIOC Director because of the perception, if not reality, of a conflict of interest between his role as Executive Director of Child School and RIOC Director. It would be as though Hudson/Related Developer David Kramer, Octagon's Bruce Becker or Island House/Westview Owner David Hirshorn, all with major real estate interests on Roosevelt Island, were appointed to the RIOC Board. Mr. Fererra then pointed out that his situation was different because he worked for a non profit and would not be benefiting personally on any of these project.
That's ridiculous since any benefit to the Child School is also a benefit to it's Executive Director, Mr. Fererra, in one form or another.
Mr. Fererra then said he would recuse himself from any RIOC Board decisions involving the Child School.
Finally, Mr. Fererra asked, though prefaced that it was purely hypothetical, if he did resign could he appoint his successor? Upon hearing this our groans were barely contained because this statement clearly showed Mr. Fererra did not understand the point being made to him in the meeting - that the primary objection to his being on the RIOC Board is that he was not elected by the community.
The meeting ended shortly thereafter with Mr. Fererra saying that he would think about what was said during the meeting and provide an answer on Monday as to whether he would stay on as a RIOC Director.
Let's see what happens on Monday and hope that Roosevelt Island can avoid what could be a very nasty and unnecessary fight.
UPDATE 6/30 - Roosevelt Island residents and RIOC Directors urge Mr. Ferrera to resign during June RIOC Board Meeting (includes video of statements)