Thursday, September 30, 2021

Current Roosevelt Island Residency Not A Requirement To Remain On RIOC Board Of Directors Says RIOC And Governor's Appointment Office - 2 Former Residents Remain On RIOC Board Despite Leaving Community

Last September 13, I asked the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC):

I'm preparing a story regarding at least one RIOC Board member, Jeffrey Escobar, not being a current Roosevelt Island resident as required by RIOC's governing statute. My understanding is that Mr Escobar moved away from Roosevelt Island more than a year ago yet he remains a member of the RIOC Board.
Is that true? If it is true, why has Mr Escobar remained on the RIOC Board? 

Also, there are allegations that David Kappel no longer lives on Roosevelt Island, or may be a part time resident, not a full time Roosevelt Island resident. Is that true? 

Does having non residents on the RIOC Board in violation of RIOC governing statute invalidate RIOC Board actions or quorum counts that they participated in?

RIOC did not reply.

I submitted a written question to the September 29 RIOC Board of Directors meeting Public Session held before the start of the meeting asking:

How many members of the RIOC Board of Directors, excluding NY State Officials, are required by statute to be residents of Roosevelt Island?

Are any of the RIOC Board Directors, excluding the NY State Officials, not residents of Roosevelt Island and if so, why are they members of the RIOC Board?

Do all members of the RIOC Board of Directors, excluding the NY State Officials, list Roosevelt Island as their primary residence on personal tax forms? If no, who does not?

RIOC Board Members and staff rarely respond to questions during any Public Session though they sometimes address the subject during the actual Board meeting.

I was surprised when RIOC General Counsel Gretchen Robinson answered:

I can briefly answer that question. 

We have two Board Members that currently do not reside on Roosevelt Island. 

I will say that Mr Kappel proactively on his own, when he determined that he was no longer going to reside on the Island, reached out to the Appointments Office to inquire as to whether his service would terminate or be in jeopardy because of that decision. 

After consultation with the Appointments Department, he was told that based on the law as it reads, he is not in violation of any rule or regulation or law and his appointment may continue until such time of his replacement.

Mr. Escobar who also recently moved off the Island has also begun that same process so based on those findings the RIOC Board Members are permitted to serve until such time that they are replaced. 

As the law reads, continued residency is silent to that. So, they were both appointed as residents when they became members of the Board and as far as Appointments is concerned, their continued services is all right

The Appointments Office Ms Robinson references is the Executive Chamber of NY State Governor Kathy Hochul.

Current residency on Roosevelt Island has long been thought to be an essential criteria for members of the RIOC Board to have direct, first hand knowledge of community concerns and be invested in the outcomes of decisions made by the RIOC Board. 

Mr Escobar was a former Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President who, at that time, was a strong supporter of residency for RIOC Directors as well as direct community election to the RIOC Board. His position appears to have changed as a RIOC Director.

One could ask why a non resident would want to serve on the RIOC Board of Directors which, when done properly, requires a great deal of time and work for no salary.

Here's the current statute (effective 2019) regarding RIOC Board of Directors:

2. The board of directors of the corporation shall be composed of nine members. One member shall be the commissioner, who shall serve as the chair; one member shall be the director of the budget; and seven public members shall be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. Of the seven public members, two members, one of whom shall be a resident of Roosevelt Island, shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the mayor of the city; and four additional members shall be residents of Roosevelt Island. Each member shall serve for a term of four years and until his or her successor shall have been appointed and shall have qualified, except that the commissioner and the director of the budget shall serve so long as they continue to hold their respective offices. Any action taken by the directors of the corporation shall be taken by majority vote of the directors then in office. The elected public officials who represent Roosevelt Island shall be representatives to the board of directors of the corporation entitled to receive notice of and attend all meetings of such board but shall not be entitled to vote. Failure to give such notice shall not affect the validity of any action taken at a meeting of such board....
Stay tune for updates.