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Friday, December 6, 2013

Roosevelt Island Residents Association Witch Hunt To Expel RIRA Member Farance Fails Following Approval Of Motion To Strike Agenda Item At Monthly Meeting, But Will It Return - Is Dr. Phil Available For Intervention?

As previously reported, the November Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council (CC) approved a Bill Of Particulars to expel CC Member Frank Farance. According to the  RIRA Constitution, Mr. Farance would have the opportunity to rebut the Bill Of Particular charges at the December RIRA meeting. Following the rebuttal by Mr. Farance, the CC would conduct a vote to expel him. A 2/3 (two thirds) vote of the Common Council would be needed to approve expelling Mr. Farance.

The December RIRA Meeting Agenda item 7 was:

... Second Part of Procedure to expel Council Member:
Member has a chance to rebut the Bill Of Particulars and Council votes on whether or not to expel him...
But this witch hunt

She's A Witch Image From Monty Python & Holy Grail

contained a last minute surprise. Mr. Farance did not get to rebut the Bill of Particulars nor did the CC vote on the Motion to expel him. Before the meeting Agenda was approved, a motion was offered to strike item 7, the motion to expel Mr. Farance, from the Agenda.

The motion to strike was approved by a vote of 15 to 14 with one abstention. As reported after the meeting Wednesday night:
... The attempt to expel Mr. Farance failed. Before Mr. Farance was to give his rebuttal, a motion to strike the Expulsion Agenda Item was made and approved by a vote of 15 to 14.

Upon losing the vote, several supporters of the motion to expel Mr. Farance immediately resigned from RIRA....
I am not clear if the motion to expel Mr. Farance can be raised again at future RIRA meetings and if it can, does a new Bill of Particulars have to be approved.

 Here's the vote and discussion afterwards

RIRA President Polivy expressed the view that it was wrong to take the motion off the Agenda without voting on the substance of expelling Mr. Farance. Of course, since a majority voted to strike the motion from the Agenda, presumably that same majority would vote to reject the motion to expel Mr. Farance. (a 2/3 vote was needed to expel, not just a majority). Following the vote, 3 supporters of the motion to expel walked out of the meeting and at least one, resigned.

CC member Sharon Pope expressed regret that the CC allowed three members:
 ... to get up and leave the room...
... we need to always work collaboratively and reach out to people consistently, that's what we were elected to do, to work with each other...
RIRA President Ellen Polivy than delivered her report in which she castigated members of the CC for not knowing how to properly behave with each other. Ms. Polivy recommended bringing in an expert to teach the CC members how to conduct themselves properly. Ms. Polivy also said:
... I find it extremely disrespectful that there was a group of people that decided something on the Agenda didn't belong on the Agenda. They wanted to take it off. It was just a maneuver to not discuss what needed to be discussed....
There was a full discussion (video here) by the CC at the November meeting. The December meeting was to give Mr. Farance a chance to rebut.

Here's the full RIRA President's Report from Ms. Polivy.

CC member Dave Evans supported the motion to strike the Expulsion motion from the Agenda. According to Mr. Evans:
It is my desire that the Common Council as the elected body of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association uses lessons learned from the matter of expulsion so to move forward in a constructive and objective manner. I must admit that, from my perspective, there is an abundance of ambiguity associated with how we have proceeded, so much that it calls into question decisions made or that might be made associated with the conduct of us on and individual and collective basis. There are institutional actions and improvements we can undertake to mitigate controversy going forward. These include, among other things: more clarity in the Constitution and Bylaws; a full review of our procedures at the Common Council and Committee levels; a broad refresher of our responsibilities as a 501c organization; codification of a code of conduct/ethics; training of Council Members so to understand the rules, provisions of the governing documents; and the need to improve ourselves on matters of decorum.

Quite frankly, I am saddened by how questions raised about Mr. Farance and the process we undertook has reflected upon the Council, creating risks to its credibility and effective operation. We have the prospects of loosing Councilors who have contributed so much to improving the way of life on the Island. But, we also have the opportunity to take advantage of this situation to make ourselves better so to get on with the business of helping make life better for the residents of this wonderful Roosevelt Island. At this point, I don't think we can say who is to blame and it could be folly to try doing so. Maybe each of us shares blame. Our focus has to be supporting the Common Council as structured going forward until we can make the aforementioned improvements and more.
Mr. Evans shares this briefing paper on handling the expulsion motion from the perspective of RIRA Constitution titled:
How Handling The Matter Of "Expulsion" Could Create A Risk Of "Implosion"
 CC member Joyce Short supported expelling Mr. Farance from RIRA. She writes:
The attempt to expel Mr. Farance did not fail. It did not come up for a vote. The agenda item to discuss the matter was stricken. The affect of striking an ongoing procedure from the agenda is that nothing changed in any way. The charges against him still stand. The decision was simply delayed with no prejudice either way. Striking it from the agenda only subjects the Common Council to this "circus" for a longer period of time. In my personal opinion, we would all have been far better off getting this matter behind us. If his supporters thought he would win, there would have been no reason to take the matter off the agenda.The motion to remove the matter was made by one of his supporters.

As to resignations, I'm aware of only one resignation that was submitted last evening. Although several Common Council Representatives are seriously considering resignation, one very active and supportive member resigned so far. It is a sad loss for the community. Jeff Prekopa accomplished, in short order, what Frank Farance failed to do for several years although he was responsible for doing so. Jeff created an impressive web page for our organization and upgraded the technology for our organizational communications. He did it quietly, professionally, and without fanfare. It is my belief that several more Common Councilors will be resigning based on the outcome of this matter.

While you may term an attempt to stop Frank's reprehensible behavior as a "witch hunt" there are many folks who will not serve on a board in which its members are consistently and continuously bombarded by his toxic dialogue and threats. Personally, I feel that what he does is bullying, and I won't serve with people who sit by and allow other members to be bullied. Telling someone that if they don't behave in a certain way, he will report them to the Attorney General, Inspector General, or whomever else he pleases, is a grotesque and flagrant act of bullying. He seems to have no boundaries or concern for the welfare of his colleagues.

If you notice, Frank has a considerable calm about him. When people react to the harm he's created, he simply quietly digs in his heels and throws pages and pages of accusation and rhetoric at them, justifying his behavior and escalating his claims. He's a very quiet, intelligent bully. It's as if he's appointed himself the official gossip of Main Street, sitting with his feet propped up on his balcony's banister and lobbing "press" grenades at every oddity he sees. When he has a slow day, he throws some marbles on the sidewalk to insure that people trip, and then he sits back, typing away and basking in the glow of his brilliance.

Frank does not privately go to the person he is criticizing and have an illuminating discussion, the way people who wish to help out do. Instead, he portrays his suspicions as facts and displays them publicly so he can be recognized for his intellect. It's reprehensible behavior, and he does it all under the guise of "freedom of speech" and "helping his community."

He calls an interest in protecting people from personal harm, being "emotional" and "making emotional decisions". He's way above that..... or is he? Emotions are what separate man from beasts. Without emotions, that's all we are. Frank should think about that the next time he criticizes people for becoming "emotional" over his attacks. They apparently have emotions. Where are his? And what is he if he cannot appreciate and respect the emotions of others?

And, as for the people who defend his right to trounce his colleagues, where is their humanity? It's a very sad day when the folks who serve on the Common Council fail to see that someone who badgers and uses public forums to bully should not be stopped.

The community needs to give serious consideration to the present condition of RIRA. We live in a community in which we have no democratic voice in the laws and governing decisions here. All we have to voice the will of our community are two organizations, RIRA and RICC.

RICC deals with the specific task of attempting to protect the community from the possible encroachment and misuse of Cornell, who has hardly committed to doing anything positive here in our neighborhood, and has the potential of doing a great deal of damage. RIRA is the organization that considers matters such as policing, services, housing, and bringing the community together through activities that make our Island a special place to live.

I've served on RIRA for several years and have seen many Common Council Representatives come and go. It is extremely unfortunate that the position of Common Council Representative is rarely a contested one. It enables people to serve who are not the community's choice, but are there by default instead. People who live in the community need to think about the kind of community they'd like Roosevelt Island to be, and if its one with an active residents association that truly represents the interests of the people, they need to carefully weigh who they vote for, and most importantly, they need to get involved. RIRA is what RIRA is voted to be. If the community wants a better RIRA, they need to take responsibility rather than sitting back and making amusing caricatures of witch hunts and the like. RIRA is what the community makes it. And what the community has made this RIRA is the recipient of bullying from within.
CC member and RIRA Public Safety Chair Erin Feely-Nahem supported did not support the motion to strike the expulsion item from the Agenda and she did not support expelling Mr. Farance from RIRA. She explained her position to the CC prior to the vote:
I am opposed to the expulsion of Frank Farance from RIRA. The administrative measure of expulsion, to deal with Frank, is like using a cannon against a bee. My position has nothing in common with any defense of Farance's behavior, methods, or political positions. I have had enough negative first-hand experience with them to last a lifetime. But the expulsion of Frank, based on the materials presented in the Bill of Particulars, does not offer any concrete acts that rise to the level of what I think should be required to expel someone, and sets a dangerous precedent.

Council Members' disruptive behavior does warrant some rule changes within the Common Council and within RIRA Committees. For example we need clear rules and monitoring against ad hominum attacks as well as space limits for online discussions. But you can’t expel someone for being rude, impugning people's motives, and for the constant use of insinuation, let alone for writing letters to the editor of The WIRE. In counterposition to expelling I think the Common Council should pass a series of resolutions opposing in detail the false "conflict of interest” charges and other insinuations Frank is trumpeting around the SCE and other committees and go on record with recorded votes on the issues he raises.

The fact is that in Frank's case, he has never been more isolated in the RIRA Common Council and in the community as a whole as he is presently. Why make him a victim now? Those who strongly oppose Frank should work to defeat him in the next Island House election. There are excellent candidates within Island House who are outraged at his behavior and political posturing and who are prepared to take him on.

The experience of the PSC can be useful in this regard. The struggle we led to get rid of Keith Guerra and change policing practices on the Island did as much as anything to politically isolate Frank. Not that that was ever our goal. Frank brought that on himself with his repeated attempts to divert the struggle into attacks on the RIOC Board and Lynne and Ellen who were members of the PSC with spouses on the Board, negating whatever positive contributions he made. Sure it was cumbersome and took up precious time in the middle of the fight but in the end the large majority unified through democratic debate, clarifying what the PSC tactics should and would be. Frank’s viewpoint and tactics ended up being supported by a tiny minority within PSC and, although he made some good contributions to the struggle, these were unfortunately outweighed by his aversion to acting as part of a team and respecting the clear democratic decisions of the majority. But we never thought of expelling him, despite all his provocations. We tried hard to make Frank part of the team in a democratic body. But, sadly Frank is his own worst enemy and he marches to his own drummer.

Just about everything that Frank is charged with, within the Common Council, also happened within the PSC. I certainly sympathize with those like Ellen and Lynne -- who I and the PSC, by vote, strongly defended against Frank’s scurrilous attacks -- who have been slurred in public by Frank. So have I. His outrageous insinuations about my son's employment with RIOC as a summer, and now part-time, employee, being supposedly a conflict of interest with my position as Chair of the PSC, is ridiculous. The reality is that my son applied in 2011 for a summer position and was not called. He applied again in May 2013, with college and more work experience under his belt, and was hired in early June. My husband and I had nothing to do with getting him the job other than helping him prepare his resume. Guerra was still in office at the time and the PSC and both of us were sharply presenting the PSC's demands at RIOC Board meetings, which included the removal of Guerra and his thugs, prior to and following my son’s hire at RIOC. The insinuation that there was a quid pro quo, with Andrew getting a summer job and us selling out the struggle is ludicrous and everything in the public record contradicts it. My speeches at the May, June, September and November RIOC Board meeting, recorded on the blog, attest to the fact that the PSC’s democratically decided position remained my mantra. So I stand second to no one in my abhorrence of Frank’s his whole way of functioning, his insinuations, and his character assassinations.

People do have the First Amendment right to establish any association or group that they care to as Frank did with his rump "Law Enforcement Committee" (LEC). But Frank's decision to form his committee was not “encouraged” by me, as asserted. It was Frank’s inability to accept PSC majority decisions concerning the committee’s tactics that encouraged him and his ally Helen Chirivas to split. Frank’s claim that he set up his committee because people felt intimidated by the presence of Ellen and Lynne in the PSC will produce laughter to anyone who ever attended various contentious PSC meeting. Ellen's views on some questions were sharply challenged and debated openly at some meetings, just like anyone else. Questions and differences were resolved through discussion and give and take. The PSC functioned democratically; there was no deference or intimidation. Frank’s proposed tactics were repeatedly not supported by the majority, and once this was evident in June, then voted down in July, his answer to his isolation was to create his so-called Law Enforcement Committee. The concrete positions the LEC has taken since, which include the PSC's long time position of advocating for services for the Young Adult population, have also been notable for advocating more aggressive policing, which clearly differs from the PSC position. ( For example, the PSC supported the tactics utilized by Interim Director Jack McManus on July 4th, where crowd control was managed without arrest or use of pepper spray, which is closer to what I would call sort of a Guerraism without Guerra.) Frank also supports the replacement of the PSD with the NYPD which the PSC unanimously opposes.

While I know it is unpleasant to see your name smeared all over the Internet, this is the age we live in. If you take a public position, and you do political or community work, you can just expect that the coarseness that is prevalent in American society and politics today is going to bite you online. I have seen my viewpoint, motives and reputation attacked online, by other Common Councilors as well. It should just make us redouble our efforts to be civil and principled in our public or political activity. The truth is, Frank's behavior, outside of RIRA after being expelled from the body, will be no different than how he acts now as a member within RIRA. To justify the expulsion of Frank because some people may think that his opinions are the opinions of RIRA, is not valid. If this is the case the positions of the Common Council need to be clarified publicly by the RIRA President. Frank represents Frank and only Frank. He can claim, for now, to be the representative of Island House but let's see what the next election brings. As a member of the PSC, Frank often sent out material independently, during the PSC struggle, which conflicted with the PSC majority's viewpoint and chosen tactics in letters to the RIOC Board, etc. As the PSC Chair I had to reiterate the PSC position, making clear that Frank’s statements and opinions were just that, Frank’s opinions, not the position of the PSC. Yes, the task was frustrating and took time, but today my relationship with these external bodies, as the RIRA PSC Chair, is solid, as is the reputation of the RIRA Public Safety Committee.
Mr. Farance has been elected by the people who live in his building - Island House- for many years. The Island House Tenants Association Chair Graham Cannon sent these two letters of support for Mr. Farance to RIRA:
To whom it may concern:

I understand there are proceedings underway which may result in Frank Farance's expulsion from RIRA

Frank has been an exemplary Island House representative (as well as IHTA Secretary) — promoting our tenants' interests effectively and well. He enjoys widespread and deserved support among the Island House electorate and there would be great concern by them if action were taken that might remove Frank and diminish our ability to have our needs and interests effectively represented at RIRA.

I would urge you to consider the interests of Island House as you make your decisions.

Graham Cannon
Chair, IHTA
To RIRA Common Council:

As you know, in Island House, we have been quite successful in negotiating an affordable housing plan for our tenancy. Our efforts have helped the 1000 residents and 400 families of Island House, and we hope we have created a template that can be replicated/adapted to benefit Westview tenants. Any success we have had has come from extensive and open negotiation with the key state agencies and, most importantly, a free, open and ongoing dialog with our tenancy who, at every juncture, have provided the most valuable input and strategic thinking that have enabled us to reflect and include their diversity and complexity in our agreements.

I was concerned at reports from our RIRA common council representatives that there may be attempts to limit debate/discussion at RIRA and/or limiting the engagement of RIRA members with the various State and law enforcement agencies with whom all of us do business on Roosevelt Island.

Please be assured that our RIRA representatives (Frank Farance, Russ Fields, Helen Chirivas) continue to represent the interests of our tenants. Based on our experience at Island House I would urge that:

(1) As at Island House meetings that allow all tenants to be heard, the RIRA Common Council should let all its delegates be heard.

(2) Island House tenants participate in the RILEC committee. The "three prong' framework suggested by our RIRA representatives seems a good basis for examining concerns about Public Safety issues.

(3) That RIRA oppose any attempt to set it up as "gatekeeper" as to who or what groups can meet with Public Safety (PSD) and/or RIOC. The standard across the city is that law enforcement meets with the widest range of community representatives and individuals to ensure they have a direct understanding of all community issues and concerns.

I encourage the RIRA Common Council to seriously consider the positions and proposals of the Island House delegation.

Graham Cannon
Chair, Island House Tenants Association
RIRA needs some intervention. Is Dr. Phil around to help?


Bill Blass said...

Slow t.v. . A product of Norway public television in which cameras are fixed for hours on a subject or event in which little happens.reportedly is coming to the u.s. ONE of its frist shows here will focus on a rira meeting

vickif104 said...

The only thing I would like to add here is that Graham Cannon has not lived on RI for a few years now. He might still be on his lease but does not live here and therefore should not be the Chair of the Island House Tenants Association. Wake up Island House. How unethical can you be.

CheshireKitty said...

Oh you should talk, the author of a fake denunciation: You and Margie take the cake on Ethics.

You know what's the matter with people like you and your friend Margie? You have such empty lives you can't help but stick your noses into other peoples' affairs. You and your friends are exactly like the hags in Macbeth. When things aren't "interesting" enough and you get bored, you go around "inventing" phony "charges" out of pure maliciousness, hatefulness and spite.

You and Margie need occupational therapy - any constructive hobby to keep you busy so you don't get into mischief.

Frank Farance said...

Ms. Feinmel, you have it wrong: Mr. Cannon works for an international humanitarian organization and, thus, regularly travels internationally. Many of our tenants have international responsibilities, including former Island House tenant Kofi Annan, prior Secretary-General of the United Nations. Ditto for other buildings on Roosevelt Island.

Mark Lyon said...

Congratulations on the most unintentionally funny post of the day.

Sticking an uninformed nose into the affairs of others? A life racked by malice, hate and spite? Critical need for therapy?

Coming from you, this is pure comedy gold.

CheshireKitty said...

Sure, someone like you, the Island's Falstaff, might find anything "unintentionally funny". Any comment must keep you ROTFL - or just, rolling..

vickif104 said...

Helen, I see you revised your original nasty message to me. It sounds like you are taking lessons from your friend Frank. You are getting more like him day by day and nastier and nastier.

Frank Farance said...

Ms. Feinmel, you nicely illustrate to the community the hypocrisy of arguments against me: Sure, it's OK to write something unsubstantiated or untrue against me (just like Jeff Prekopa), but that's OK in your mind because it's just against Frank. Just like the Bill of Particulars, all unsubstantiated, misleading, and/or untrue.

Or maybe Mr. Lyon. His Communications Committee (according to co-chair Jeff Prekopa's RIRA column in the WIRE) met in secret, had no announcement no agenda, no minutes. I've asked for explanation, but have received none. Do we find it acceptable that RIRA committees can meet in secret and decide things without our knowing? I think not, nor do my constituents in Island House.