Frank Farance Commends New Roosevelt Island Residents Association President Escobar For Running A Good Meeting But Asks If Good Governance Will Follow
Reported previously on the efforts of some Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council (CC) members to expel CC member Frank Farance. Those efforts created a circus like atmosphere within RIRA and ultimately led to the resignations of several CC members, a new RIRA President and Mr. Farance remaining a CC member.
As reported following the March RIRA meeting:
Just left tonight's RIRA meeting and am happy to say the Circus has left Roosevelt Island. This RIRA meeting under the leadership of President Jeff Escobar was efficiently run, productive, civil and informative. It provides hope for the future of RIRA as an organization.Mr. Farance comments
After the meeting, the overwhelming consensus of those present was that Mr. Escobar did a great job. Some RIRA members even came over to me and said they now understand why Roberts Rules Of Order is a good framework for conducting meetings.
Hopefully, this will continue going forward in the future...
on the March RIRA meeting and governance issues facing the organization. From Mr. Farance:
I believe Jeff Escobar did good job running the March Common Council meeting. There were a variety of potential changes he proposed (e.g., auditorium seating, not circle seating as it had been). I expressed several concerns to the Common Council prior to the meeting, it's possible he was listening to my concerns. It's not the actual use of time, it's the perception about the use of time that is the problem. Ellen Polivy's meetings were so poorly run, every vote needed to be counted over and over.
The CCtalk E-mail reflector, which is not a blog (as reported in the WIRE), is sorely missed because now we are communicating with 30-ish E-mails on a To: line. I've provided the following explanation to old/new CC members and it seems to resonate with some:
"While CCtalk has been shut down, it is merely one mechanism, it doesn't prohibit other email reflectors to be set up. E-mail reflectors provide the important corporate value of making sure all directors are communicated to evenly, not some skipped by the erroneous setting up multiple recipients (three dozen or so) on an E-mail message. So if it has to do with the business of the corporation, any director has the Right to communicate with other directors. ... As I've pointed out, the RIOC board has an E-mail reflector that is public and any person can send to. Clearly, RIOC directors (including our neighbors) are able to manage their E-mail flow. [You] shouldn't look to quash corporate communications among directors. If you don't like an E-mail, you can just ignore it."Although there are still some imperfect E-mails (even from friends), I think this will calm down soon because: (1) CC members now recognize we have a right to communicate, (2) being perceived as quashing communications is not good, and (3) the receiver can just delete unpleasant messages ... just as the RIOC Directors seem to manage without difficulty.
The lack of the corporation's minutes and prior resolutions are still an issue (a variety of Duty-Of-Care issues). And because the minutes are in poor shape, the RIRA Auditor didn't look at the Cherry Blossom Finances from last year (because the request was in the lost minutes), and thus this topic is still unresolved.
I've heard some say that we were trying to get rid of Ellen Polivy and Lynne Strong-Shinozaki, but that was not so. The goal was to correct the corporate governance, including its finances. Simply, the disagreement isn't between two factions over something arbitrary, such as choosing Chocolate vs. Strawberry ice cream for Roosevelt Island Day. The two factions can be easily described as: those interested in good governance, fairness, openness, and transparency ... and those against it via a variety of methods, such as telling untruths, misrepresentation, obstruction, manipulation, and inaction. Really, almost every argument really comes down that.
Lots of the problems that RIRA had were about getting to the truth/facts behind what was reported. The Cherry Blossom Festival was a spectacular example of a problem with the truthy-ness of the reporting from the Ms. Strong-Shinozaki and others. Simply, had Ms. Strong-Shinozaki reported the truth, been forthcoming, and answered questions, then it would have all blown over ... and RIRA would have had an opportunity to understand/correct financial/legal controls that would positively affect future RIRA fundraising efforts. But Ms. Strong-Shinozaki kept twisting the truth. It reminds me of the story children learn about lying: the first lie begets a bigger lie and so on. So rather than Ms. Strong-Shinozaki telling us the truth in a forthcoming way, her and followers doubled down with a misguided expulsion process that ultimately failed and almost toppled RIRA. The Common Council, via a democratic process, saw it for what it was. Unfortunately, RIRA is unlikely to understand/correct the problems it had with financial/legal controls with Mr. Escobar's approach to ignore the past.
Yeah, a resident writes a letter to the WIRE with genuine concerns about RIRA (which were validated and not refuted), and it percolates into an expulsion, and Ms. Polivy was quoted in the WIRE saying They've Done Us A Favor, Now This Can Drag On. Yeah, the community Got It.
And the WIRE is part of this, too. So you have WIRE staff (Sherie Helstien, Matt Katz) angling to get in something positive, some kind of exoneration for Ms. Strong-Shinozaki. Here is an excerpt of a February 19 E-mail from Sherie Helstien (Matt Katz, Jeff Escobar are CCd) where Ms. Helstien is pressuring the RIRA Treasurer:
Sherie Helstien> "... you agreed that you’d write something for The WIRE letters section, clearing up the issue around RIRA’s finances (w/the "clean bill of health" from the Audit). We’ve not seen that letter you promised you’d write. PLEASE write it and send it to Matt today so he can look it over. ... Preferably, the letter should appear in The WIRE before the March 5 Common Council meeting. Dick Lutz’s deadline for copy in the February 22 issue, the last before the March CC meeting, is past, but he may be able to make space for something important like your letter."The RIRA Treasurer did not write such a letter. What he has said was:
CBF Financial Report was "misleading", "did not reflect arms length transactions", and "could not be considered a valid accounting report and should not be considered as such".And for additional WIRE influence on the process, Jeff Prekopa resigned as RIRA Secretary in early December. However, he can develop the WIRE's fancy new website, he advertises in the WIRE (Big City Softworks), and he can attend RIRA Common Council meetings (as he did in February, on behalf of the WIRE?), but for three months he can't seem to give Mr. Escobar or Ms. Polivy the website administrator's user ID and password so that RIRA can correct/update the content. That's not about doing stuff competently, it seems that this is about inaction that favors that protected circle, right? And do you think the WIRE is going to report that Mr. Prekopa, in his sudden resignation, has been irresponsible in not promptly handing over corporate assets - for three months? Certainly, had the WIRE provided unbiased coverage, maybe some attention would have been given to a matter that actually affects RIRA's integrity and long-term governance.
Sure RIRA has a new President and Vice President, but it still remains to be seen whether this translates into good governance, openness, fairness, and transparency ... all for the benefit of our community. Certainly, my constituents have always supported these goals.