Former RIOC Chief Financial Officer Steve Chironis Responds To NY State Inspector General's Roosevelt Island Corruption Report - RIOC Directors Respond Too
Image From NY State Inspector General's Roosevelt Island Corruption Report Press Release
Reported August 7 on the NY State Inspector General's (IG) investigation and report on corruption at the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) during past administration.
According to this excerpt from the IG Report Press Release:
... Three executives of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation were engaged in misconduct ranging from steering contracts to relatives and taking kickbacks from them, using RIOC vehicles for personal use, chronic absenteeism, and inappropriate expenses including the use of RIOC funds for unauthorized meals, according to a report released today by New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott. Inspector General Scott’s investigation, which covered the years 2007 to 2012 focused on Fernando Martinez, then Vice President of Operations for RIOC, former President/Chief Executive Officer Leslie Torres, and former Chief Financial Officer Steven Chironis. As a result of the investigation, all three no longer work for RIOC....Former RIOC CFO Steve Chironis responds to the IG Report writing:
... The Inspector General’s investigation revealed that Martinez received kickbacks for steering a contract to Bright Cleaning Solutions (BCS), Ramos’s company, in November 2008 for shoreline cleanup. He steered another contract to BCS in September 2010 for an office renovation project and received $9,390.
Additionally, Martinez utilized a brother-in-law’s printing company for RIOC projects and hired a second brother-in-law for the position of Parks and Recreation Manager in violation of state ethics policy and RIOC’s anti-nepotism directive. Following the Inspector General’s discoveries, Martinez resigned his RIOC employment in December 2012.
Former President/CEO Torres violated RIOC policy by utilizing a RIOC vehicle for commuting and personal travel. In addition, she inappropriately charged expensive meals to her RIOC credit card, with one lunch costing $355. Finally, Torres was consistently absent from RIOC’s offices, instructing staff to keep her office lit while she was away. She resigned in September 2012.
Former CFO Chironis tacitly approved Torres’s misuse of the RIOC vehicle, and miscalculated her taxable fringe benefit in violation of federal law and state policy. He also permitted Torres to inappropriately charge meals to her credit card, incorrectly classifying them as “business expenses” in violation of RIOC policy. In fact, Chironis and Martinez engaged in the same misuse of their RIOC credit cards shortly after Torres began doing so. Chironis resigned his RIOC employment in August 2013....
To the Roosevelt Island Community,RIOC Board of Directors, Margie Smith, David Kraut and Howard Polivy, discussed the IG's Roosevelt Island corruption report with RIOC President Charlene Indelicato during the August 21 Governance Committee meeting (audio web cast of full meeting here). Directors Smith and Kraut reported:
What I will say relating to the whole matter is this: Look, I get it, the Martinez “episode” happened under my watch, “the buck stops here,” and I lost my job because of it. However, I would like to state the following:
(1) Fernando Martinez: I was fooled like the rest of us. The “powers that be” gave him their trust, which he ultimately betrayed. Everyone should be allowed a second chance. He has repaid his debt to society, and now has the opportunity to turn his life around, and I sincerely hope he does. If Jesus can forgive him, I certainly can!
(2) I.G.’s reporting of approximately $3,200 of “inappropriate charges” by me: I am stating for the record that all the expenses noted in the report were for legitimate business expenses. All charges were signed off by the President and the Controller. As for the $720 that was spent at my wife’s restaurant, it was fully disclosed prior to going. The occasion was to reward my staff for a job well done upon the completion of the annual budget. Even the one and only time that RIOC took out the POMA (Tram construction contractor) project managers for lunch to celebrate the reopening of the Tram and to discuss ongoing punch-list items was also classified as “inappropriate.” In fact, charges for all business lunches and dinners for the two-year period were “inappropriate,” according to the I.G., but they are typical for a corporate executive who, the I.G. acknowledges, had taken on many of the president’s duties. What they claimed is that the charges had “no value” and were “unnecessary.” This seems to be purely subjective and almost impossible to prove otherwise, as it would be for most business lunches. I also want to note that, at the time of such expenditures, I wasn’t aware of a policy in force restricting such types of expenditures. In fact, almost two years later, in October 2012, the ABO [Authorities Budget Office] issued a recommendation to all State agencies restricting and/or eliminating such expenditures, which most agencies hastily implemented, RIOC included.
(3) Leslie Torres’ “Personal Use of State Vehicle:” I followed the State policy in force at the time (NYS DOB D-750, dated 9-18-2009), which states, “State Officials of Cabinet Rank and Heads of Agencies shall not be assigned a permanent vehicle but shall have ‘unrestricted’ use of their agency fleet vehicles.” It goes on to say that “personal use” must be reported as income. This was done. As to the amount reported, it was based on the miles that Ms. Torres reported to me.
(4) Leslie Torres’ absence from the office: Approximately three months after Ms. Torres started, she submitted her resignation and made a request to the Appointments Office for a transfer. She had a 20-year record in government at mid-management positions, [and had been] asked to head a very political agency, a position that few people wanted and [that was] difficult to fill. I also believe it was portrayed to her as a “temporary” position. This does not justify her actions, but it does reveal that the State was put on notice very early in her administration. It was apparent, to everyone in a position to correct the situation, what was going on.
I would like to state that I am proud of what was accomplished during my six years at RIOC. Working at RIOC is quite difficult at times; it’s an environment where, quite often, you are caught in the middle between the State and the residents. There are many dedicated, hard-working employees at RIOC who rarely get acknowledged for their accomplishments, but quite often are publically chastised at the first sign of trouble. I realize that my forced resignation was made at a level above RIOC management, and I hold no ill will and wish all at RIOC the best.
- they did not see the IG Report until the day before it was released to the public,
- there was no communication between the Directors and IG during the investigation and
- contact between the IG and RIOC during the investigation was done with the staff.
... What happened here makes me angry. I don't know what we could have done to prevent it ... it's a huge betrayal of trust... I don't know what we can do about it in terms of the future. Loopholes often don't appear until someone wiggles through them but I think a place to start certainly is to fine tune our response to the report.The RIOC Governance Committee Directors agreed to form a committee to respond to the IG Report. Here's video of the RIOC Governance Committee discussion of the IG Report.
Former RIOC President Steve Shane responded to IG Report here.
The full IG Report is here.