Monday, March 28, 2022

Serious Allegations Of Wrongdoing Made Against RIOC President & Executive Staff By Purported Whistleblower Employees, Read The Full Document - Assembly Member Seawright And City Council Member Menin Call For Investigation, Allegations Referred To NY State Inspector General

A document was published on the OPNLTTR web site dated March 26, 2022 purportedly shared by a group of Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) employees raising serious allegations of wrongdoings against RIOC President Shelton Haynes and certain members of the RIOC executive staff. 

According to the document:

Among the allegations are:
  • Misappropriation of state funds
  • Covering up a negligent death
  • Mismanagement of the AVAC System
  • Cronyism
  • Fraud
  • Abuse of power
  • Predatory Behavior/Grooming and Fostering a toxic work environment
  • Disability Discrimination
  • Violating NYS equal employment laws
  • Violating NYS ethics laws: JCOPE (title 19/disclosure of outside activities) 

This morning, I sent an email to RIOC President Shelton Haynes asking for comment regarding the allegations:

... As related specifically to the Swift Emergency Covid Test Site, do you have any comment on the following allegations:
  • Haynes shared internally and publicly that Swift Emergency Care was an OGS vendor and recommended by New York State, which was not the case.
  • It was shared by Haynes that “emergency funds” were approved to use for all activities to operate the site including renovations of the storefront (brokered by Hudson Related), equipment, furniture, signage, and fees to the doctors. These purchases, however, are listed under different line items in the RIOC budget.
  • Swift purchase orders totalled $53K a month and they demanded payment be received in five days rather than RIOC’s Net 30 requirement. When this “unique request” was flagged, Haynes bullied staff into meeting the terms requested.
As related to the Sportspark Pool drowning death, do you have any comment on the following:
Covering Up a Negligent Death at Sportspark Pool

On Sunday, May 16th, a swimmer at RIOC’s Sportspark Pool died due to negligence of RIOC lifeguards and personnel. Upon learning of the death, Haynes quickly and quietly met with RIOC Public Safety Department Chief, Kevin Brown; Deputy Director of RIOC Public Safety Department, Anthony Amoroso; Assistant Vice President of Administration (formerly the Director of HR), Tajuna Sharpe; General Counsel (formerly the Internal Controls Officer), Gretchen Robinson; and the Assistant Vice President of Special Programs & Operations (formerly the Director of Operations), Altheria Jackson.

Video footage of the incident shows that RIOC lifeguards were not at their assigned posts and not paying attention to the pool. For this reason, it was other swimmers in the pool who took notice of the young man, who had been in distress for so long that he had sunk to the bottom of the pool.

Video footage also shows that poolside efforts to revive the young man were chaotic, with members of the public administering CPR before any of the lifeguards. The lifeguards on duty that day were either fired or left due to the traumatizing incident.

In the weeks following the death, staff working closely with Haynes were threatened and verbally told not to email any correspondence related to the incident and that all discussions and communication about it would be done over the phone, only, per advisement from General Counsel (formerly the Internal Controls Officer), Gretchen Robinson.

As related to executives receiving overtime pay:

Historically, executives were not qualified to receive overtime pay. Changes made specifically to the employee handbook to benefit Haynes and other executives to receive overtime pay for board and committee meetings, and community functions held after normal business hours and on the weekends.


Haynes has been known to secretly record conversations with staff, including the former President, Susan Rosenthal. In 2019, Haynes recorded Rosenthal speaking to him with explicit racially charged language, where Rosenthal referred to him by the "N-word". Instead of reporting Rosenthal's behavior and the incident to Albany, Haynes shared the recording with a select group of minority subordinates to gain sympathy...

There has been no response from RIOC at time of publishing.

Prior to the document being posted on the public OPNLETTR website, it was sent to Roosevelt Island elected officials included Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and NYC Council Member Julie Menin.

Asked to comment of these allegations, a spokesperson for Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright reports:

The office received a document via an anonymous email on March 21. The document has been referred to the New York State Inspector General's office for review.

NYC Council Member Julie Menin replied:
Any and all allegations of wrongdoing must be taken with extreme seriousness and I expect the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to provide a statement addressing the concerns outlined in this document.  All claims must be expeditiously and thoroughly investigated and the public must be apprised of the results of the investigation.
The Roosevelt Island Daily first reported existence of this letter last Friday.
Stay tuned. 

UPDATE 4/12 - RIOC remains silent on these allegations. 
NYS We Deserve Better has a Twitter feed.

UPDATE 4/15 - It is not known whether any of these allegations were the sole Agenda Item 

during last evening's secret RIOC Board meeting 

held in Executive Session closed to the public via video conference.