Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Who Will Be New Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Acting/Permanent President and Why Did Former RIOC President Resign? RIOC Board Of Directors Meeting Tomorrow To Discuss, Again

 RIOC Directors and Staff At September 24 Governance Committee Meeting

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors will meet tomorrow to discuss the appointment of an interim President to replace former RIOC President Leslie Torres who resigned for still unknown reasons on September 21. Also to be discussed by the RIOC Directors will be the establishment of an executive search process to select a permanent RIOC President.

As previously reported, during the September 24 RIOC Governance Committee meeting:
... the RIOC Directors announced that General Counsel Donald Lewis will be the Interim RIOC President/CEO until an Emergency RIOC Board of Directors meeting is held which is scheduled for next Wednesday October 3. At that full RIOC Board meeting, an Acting President/CEO will be named by the RIOC Directors and procedures will be announced for conducting a job search for a new RIOC President....
The full web cast of the public portion of September 24 Governance Committee meeting is below. Prior to the public portion of the meeting, the RIOC Governance committee met in Executive Session without the public or press present. During the Executive Session, after discussions among themselves, the RIOC Board Governance Committee met individually with RIOC General Counsel Donald Lewis, RIOC Vice President of Operations Fernando Martinez and RIOC Chief Financial Officer Steve Chironis.

Reliable sources report that Mr. Lewis, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Chironis are the most likely candidates for interim RIOC President (Biographies of each are available at the RIOC web site). Both Mr. Martinez (joined RIOC in 2007) and Mr. Chironis (joined RIOC in 2008) have much more experience working at RIOC and on Roosevelt Island issues than Mr. Lewis (joined RIOC 2011) though Mr. Lewis is reportedly favored by the Governor and/or the Governor's Office for the position of Interim RIOC President and perhaps even the permanent President.

The last two times an interim RIOC President was selected following the departure of a RIOC President, the Chief Financial Officer was selected for the temporary position - Steve Chironis following  RIOC President Steve Shane in 2010 and Patrick Siconolfi following RIOC President Robert Ryan in 2003.

Below is the Agenda for tomorrow's RIOC Board of Directors Meeting

OCTOBER 3, 2012
5:30 P.M.

I. Call to Order
II. Roll Call
III. Old Business
IV. New Business
1. Chair�s Motion for Executive Session to Review and Discuss Personnel Matters; and
2. Any Other Business Which may be Brought Before the Board of Directors.
V. Adjournment 
Questions remaining to be answered include:
  • How much of the RIOC Board discussion will be conducted in public,
  • What will be said in secret, 
  • Why did former RIOC President Leslie Torres resign and
  • Will the RIOC Board make an independent decision to hire the next President after a professional executive search is conducted or 
  • Will the Governor and/or his office ("The Second Floor) force the appointment of a political crony/patron.
Interesting times for Roosevelt Island.

UDPATE - 10/4 - RIOC Board selects Don Lewis as the Acting President and will conduct an Executive Search for a permanent President. More here.


Frank Farance said...

Maybe a simple explanation for the secrecy is: Announcing Torres's departure in advance would get the RIOC Board moving on a search process. So having an abrupt transition (from our perspective) makes for the smoothest transition for the Governor's pick, right? It's hard to believe Ms. Torres's did something wrong: she wasn't here often enough(*) and she wasn't involved enough in the day-to-day activities(*) to do something significantly wrong. (*) not a complaint, just an observation ... mostly the blinds were down and the lights were off, right?

CheshireKitty said...

The RIOC Board does the search and the Governor picks the candidate he wishes to appoint?

JimmyLaRoche said...

Frank is lost. The board holds no such authority.

theohiostate said...

Lost and alone... It must really stink for him that he goes through life with no real friends... serves him right. He has a wooden spoon in every pot - and for what? Nobody knows... maybe he thinks he'll be popular that way.

Frank Farance said...

Members of the RIOC Board have expressed interest in having a search process. Maple Tree Group (MTG), including Ms. Margie Smith (who lobbied for legislation while being a RIOC Board member), have tried to get the process changed so they feel they are stuck rubber-stamping the Governor's recommendation (a single candidate).

As reported by Ms. Smith at the RIRA Common Council meeting (at which I am typing right now), RIOC will issue an RFP next week for an executive search firm to fill its President/CEO position.

Formally, the RIOC Board appoints its officers via resolution at Board meetings, as per Article 4, Section 1-2 of the RIOC By-Laws:

"Section 1. Appointment. The officers of the Corporation shall be the Chairperson as provided in the Act, the President and Chief Executive Officer, the Vice President, the Chief Fiscal Officer, the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary, and the Treasurer, and such other officers or deputies of officers as may be determined by the Board from time to time to perform such duties as may be designated by the Board. None of the officers of the Corporation need be members of the Board unless otherwise required by applicable law. A person who is otherwise qualified may hold more than one office.

Section 2. Election and Term of Office. Except as otherwise provided in the Act, the officers shall be elected by resolution at a regular meeting of the Board. Each officer shall hold office, unless removed, until his or her successor shall have been elected. Except as otherwise provided in the Act, a vacancy in any office shall be filled by the Board.".

CheshireKitty said...

Having a search done doesn't contradict the Bylaws. Of course, Cuomo doesn't have to endorse any of the candidates that the search may find. Or, he may recommend a candidate the search turns up. Either way, I highly doubt that Cuomo is going to give up his power to recommend a candidate for RIOC President. Since the island is now basically wholly developed, what is the point of continuing the RIOC structure and the lease-back to NYS? If I were the State Legislature, I would look into spinning off RIOC - simply let RI become part of Queens or Manhattan, whatever makes more sense, and let the City take over. I doubt if RI would get "lost in the shuffle" - especially now that Cornell-Technion is in the works, the City will look to continue the "care and feeding" of RI.

JimmyLaRoche said...

This place is a money maker. They will EXTEND the lease!

CheshireKitty said...

Maybe - but what would make the most sense from the standpoint of the City: Administering it directly, or having the State involved? It may have made sense back in the 70s to have the lease since the City in those days was in sorry shape, on the brink of bankruptcy, and didn't have the means to redevelop RI. Now the City, despite the many problems since 2001, isn't in that position anymore, and redevelopment of many neighborhoods is underway. The 2 largest remaining chunks of RI are directly owned by the City - Goldwater & Coler; the City has already conveyed the Goldwater land to Cornell for redevelopment as a college campus. If the City-owned Coler "footprint" is eventually also redeveloped, wouldn't it be more logical to reunify the Island under City control? Otherwise, at Cornell-Technion, you may have the strange circumstance of one side of a roadway technically supposed to be cared for and cleaned by the City, whereas the other is supposed to be taken care of by RIOC. I'm just "exaggerating" for effect here - obviously the City will no doubt expect RIOC keep both sides of the road at Cornell-Technion clean - and the AVAC, and the rest of the infrastructure, will be extended to Cornell-Technion even though the AVAC system is part of RIOC. The point is - if we were under the City, we wouldn't be having endless discussions about the less than transparent actions and motives of RIOC, which is connected to the sometimes opaque, or "mysterious", world of Albany politics. You may have more accountability and local control if you could, like people in Queens or Manhattan, call your local representative, who is actually in NYC and is focused on the area in NYC they are representing. The way things are now, the NYC rep can conveniently point to the Albany folks, and the Albany folks can do the same thing - point to the NYC folks. Meanwhile, RI is left with the uncomfortable feeling of being a political football, more or less a fiefdom, of which the leadership - the post of RIOC president - is awarded every few years by the Governor as a "prize".

CheshireKitty said...

I wouldn't write Frank off so fast. He's actually one of the few "community-minded" residents who is also a "native" RI-er if I am not mistaken. As such, he can be said to have put in a lifetime on the Rock - and may have deeper insight than more recent-arrived Islanders. Also, even if you disagree with him, he is very patient with the foibles of his fellow-Islanders, which is a plus. I wouldn't be surprised if he runs for RIRA President again - and wins.

JimmyLaRoche said...

Of course he will win, he can't even smell fresh baked bread because his nose is up up up and away in a special place all the time.

zoilalexie said...

I agree with Kitty that Frank is a long-timer on the island. I can even agree that he may have insight into a lot that goes on here. But, I don't agree that he is patient with people who disagree with him. He will not stop trying to convince you of his vantage point until you give in. I think that was his downfall as RIRA President. If anyone doesn't see his side, he will treat them like his enemy.

Frank Farance said...

CheshireKitty, I am not running for RIRA President, only as a RIRA rep for Island House.

While I enjoyed my term as RIRA President, and I felt that I was effective, I also learned and respected what the community wanted. I lost the 2010 election to Matt Katz. While disappointing, it's what the community wants. We get the government we deserve (and it looks like we'll get even more deserving government the next RIRA term). Now I happen to disagree with Mr. Katz on a good number of points, and many of the concerns I raised in 2010 did pan out as I expected. Mr. Katz was as expedient as ever, right up to the last RIRA meeting with his wavering support for a PSD inquiry because Mr. Guerra was hounding him and again, like me, Mr. Guerra is trying to shape the story.

But the second point, and I will give Mr. Katz credit that he is better at this than me, is accepting the external influence that comes with the money and power of people around you (a.k.a. bullsh*t). I was unwilling to accept the conflicts of interest in the RIOC Board, the behind the scenes manipulation of our community, and so on. I felt it was important to have principles and ethics, follow through on them, and stand up for the community ... which means butting heads sometimes, even if it's with your neighbors. I have no regrets on the positions I advocated.

I've accomplished much for the community in the past two years without being RIRA President, and I will continue to work for our community, regardless of my position ... I continue to volunteer much time for community organizations.

In summary, some of the key features that characterize Me (honest, principled, ethical, capable, etc.) aren't necessarily what an electorate wants, so I focus my talents in other ways.

Frank Farance said...

There's the issue of the billion dollars RIOC owes to ESDC, a billion dollar payback required for exactly this kind of transfer back to the City.

CheshireKitty said...

Frank was doing OK as RIRA Pres until the issue of the RIOC nominee elections came up. There was the question of the timing of the election and the elaborate justification for not having the election presented by the MTG. It's incomprehensible that the MTG didn't include Frank in their deliberations but the fact is they didn't, although Frank, as both a MTG member and RIRA Pres was supposed to have been included in all steps of the process of formulating a position on the timing of the RIOC nominee election. It was then that Frank began to lose patience - a bit - although he remained professional and correct conducting the RIRA meetings. Frank, like many who write on-line, succumbed to a bit of heightened prose, in expressing his displeasure or frustration with what was going on with the MTG. It is widely noted that people who, when writing, posting or publishing on-line, may not be as circumspect as they ordinarily would be in real life because they cannot see the effect their writing will have on the person or persons being addressed, is one of the down-sides of our digital age. There is something about the ease of communicating or sharing electronically that seems to invite a level of directness that would not be found in face-to-face communication or in an actual letter written on real paper. Because electronic communication is now deemed ubiquitous as well as free, it has become a practically "throw-away" medium - leading to a general "cheapening" of discourse. Anyway, in the case of Frank and the MTG, his response in turn led to further tension as readers reacted. Of course he accepted the will of RIRA when they voted to put off the RIOC nominee elections, even though he disagreed with doing so. Sure enough, Cuomo dismissed Kalkin and added Ferrara to the RIOC Board - which may or may not have happened had there been RIOC nominees in the "pipeline". The MTG folks then spent about a year protesting Ferrara's appointment to the RIOC Board - and are still awaiting a response to their request for a meeting with the Gov. Is this comical/ridiculous? Could it have been avoided had there been a RIOC nominee election in '10? The reader can decide. Either way, this was definitely an "I told you so" moment - wherein Frank was probably right, and the MTG probably wrong - actually definitely wrong, as I've written above, in excluding Frank from their deliberations. The mystery is why the MTG did so - since he could have contributed alot. Was there a personality "clash" even then - before things became tense? It didn't seem so. Frank worked hard as RIRA Pres, to his credit had regular Town Hall meetings and accomplished quite a few other worthy things. The MTG "shenanigans" looked like an effort to undercut Frank and weaken his '10 re-election effort. Obviously, the subsequent strenuous discomfiture of the MTG when Ferrara was named Board member was unsurprising, to say the least, even a source of perhaps slight bemusement, to those who disagreed with the MTG's original suggestion to postpone the RIOC nominee election.

Frank Farance said...

CheshireKitty, very nice summary, but let me add a couple key points. It was Ms. Margie Smith who (as a RIOC director) was also lobby for legislation to take away all the Governor's and Mayor's appointments, to make them all residents, and to take away the Governor's implicit ability to provide candidates for RIOC President.

It was then Ms. Smith who wanted Mr. Steve Shane fired because he was an obstacle to privatization (that would be Rivercross privatization, he was helping Island House privatization). Ms. Shane's clash with Ms. Smith (and other RIOC directors from Rivercross, 4 of 7 appointments are from Rivercross) over privatization is that he was advocating the interests of the State, which would mean more money for RIOC and less money in the pocket for RIOC directors.

So it was the firing of Mr. Shane over Rivercross privatization that was the departure point for me and the others ... I just couldn't believe they would exercise their own financial interests and fire Mr. Shane.

Then that summer Ms. Smith held a fund raiser in her apartment for Micah Kellner's releection, with flyers out to her Rivercross neighbors to join her in her apartment ... a fundraiser for a legislator that would help her and others stay on the board, would make it harder for the Governor to put his people in as RIOC President, and would help put more money in the pockets of RIOC Directors and Rivercross residents. This whole focus on privatization was unseemly, which was the nature of my complaints that year.

Right after the Shane firing, MTG then decided to go AGAINST the RIOC 2010 elections. At the September 2010 RIRA meeting, Ms. Smith and Mr. Jonathan Kalkin spoke AGAINST having RIOC 2010 elections.

For Mr. Katz and I, this was our main difference in the RIRA 2010 elections.

Last year, the Governor appoints Dr. Ferrera and removes Mr. Kalkin (not a surprise). We have no candidates available. Then we start talking about democracy but the key people have manipulated this so there were no elections. Mr. Bill Long then chairs the Government Relations Committee, Mr. Katz appoints him (via expedience), but there is no rule permitting it so. So it's OK for RIRA to appoint someone out-of-procedure for a committee chair (a chair who is complaining about democracy), yet RIRA complains about the Governor not following procedures.

And the RIOC Board (with 4 of 7 members living in Rivercross) gives Rivercross a ground lease extension to 2068, which gives each of them more equity in their homes.

So for all our claims for democracy, Mr. Katz, Ms. Smith, and a handful of others ruined it permanently for the rest of us because they were fighting for Rivercross privatization, which would allow them to cash out on their apartments and make half a million to a million dollars in profit. Ms. Smith is still on the RIOC Board, and she chairs the Governance Committee, which is the one that determines the process for getting the next RIOC President.

You can see why the Governor isn't really interested in our "democracy" claims.

roozevelt said...

Frank, this was by far your most insightful post. Good stuff. Thank you for enlightening us.

CheshireKitty said...

A sad story of the grotesque conflict of interest marring RIOC Board decision-making, and one that, it is hoped, the Inspector General thoroughly investigates in his probe of RIOC, the RIOC Board, and the RIOC Board decisions. "Money is the Root of all Evil" is a proverb that is certainly applicable to this sad story.

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