This document is being shared by #NYSWeDeserveBetter, employees of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) of the State of New York who care deeply about fulfilling RIOC’s mission. We are actively working in support of immediate changes that will benefit RIOC as a whole by improving the oversight of the island and the current workplace culture for everyone who serves there. We are presenting ourselves under the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, intimidation, and the maligning of our careers as public service professionals. Given the serious content of this letter, we demand the immediate resignation of the following employees of RIOC’s executive team:
Shelton J. Haynes, President & CEO, Gretchen Robinson, Vice President & General Counsel, Tajuna Sharpe, AVP of Administration, Markus Sztejnberg, Deputy General Counsel, and Altheria Jackson, AVP of Programs & Operations.
In her first speech to New Yorkers after being sworn in as the state's 57th governor -- and the first woman to hold the title -- Kathy Hochul promised "dramatic change in culture, with accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line." Most recently, Hochul proclaimed that she has been committed to “cleaning up Albany and ensuring safe, respectful workplaces free of harassment and abuse” signing bills that would ensure a safer, fairer, and more equitable New York.
So why is there a kick-back taking, nepotism practicing, investigation dodging, whistle-blower firing, misogynist, who’s even covered up a negligent death, toxically reigning over the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), a state-run public benefit corporation managing Manhattan’s island to the east?
The fish rots from the head, as they say, and the head that appointed this tyrant was Hochul’s disgraced predecessor, Andrew Cuomo.
RIOC -- much like the state’s government offices all the way up in Albany -- has a long history of corruption, ethics scandals and a culture of harassment, bullying, and favoritism due to pandering. Under the current President & CEO, Shelton J. Haynes, it doesn’t look like that will change -- unless Hochul makes good on her promise.
Haynes was hired by RIOC in 2016 as the Vice President of Operations and was later promoted to Chief Operating Officer. He later convinced Susan Rosenthal, RIOC's former President & CEO, to create a new position, Chief Operating Officer which does not exist in RIOC's bylaws. With this promotion he demanded an additional $10,000 stating that he does not take a title change without an increase. After the firing of Rosenthal in June of 2020, Haynes was named Acting President & CEO with the official appointment of the position in March of 2021.
But Haynes’ repellent behavior began long before he arrived at RIOC or got a taste of presidential power. So how did he find himself helming a state agency despite a troubled past? Under the Cuomo administration, it’s perhaps not surprising. But the environment at RIOC is so deplorable, employees are insisting Hochul’s “dramatic change” will sweep through RIOC -- and soon.
Below are examples of how Haynes‘, has and continues to, mismanage the corporation:
- Misappropriation of state funds
- Covering up a negligent death
- Mismanagement of the AVAC System
- 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)
Misappropriation of Funds
Haynes’ History of Misappropriating Funds
Before arriving at RIOC, Haynes worked at the Housing Authority of DeKalb County, Georgia. During his tenure there, a HUD IG investigation was opened for misappropriation of funds for its voucher program that he oversaw. Haynes left before the investigation was completed. The final report covers the years when he was “Chief Operating Officer” (as stated in his bio on the RIOC website and on his resume, though there’s no record of Haynes holding the role of COO while at the Housing Authority of DeKalb County).
The IG report found that, while Haynes was Director of Housing Vouchers, the voucher funding for housing was misappropriated and staff lacked the basic comprehension of internal controls and/or HUD laws. As a result, the voucher program was closed.
The Current Cooking of RIOC Books
In July of 2021, RIOC’s then Comptroller, Muneshwar Jagdharry, was abruptly forced to retire after he opposed Haynes’ plan to cook the books for the upcoming proposed budget that showed inflated salaries, ghost staff, holes, and false expenses like listing the Roosevelt Island Branch of the New York Public Library as a RIOC expense.
On September 13th of 2021, Andrew Berko was hired as RIOC’s new Comptroller. On October 4th of 2021 (three short weeks later), the Assistant Vice President of Administration (formerly the Director of HR), Tajuna Sharpe, informed the corporation that, effective immediately, Berko was no longer with RIOC.
Kickbacks, Nepotism, and Sloppy Operations with a Pop-up COVID-19 Testing Site
In January of 2021, RIOC opened a COVID-19 testing site managed by Swift Emergency Care, P.C., a company founded solely with the purpose to defraud RIOC, and run by Dr. Christian Bannerman.
- Bannerman is a friend and, at the time, was a long-time neighbor of Haynes in NYC on the upper east side.
- Bannerman is a troubled emergency doctor with three medical malpractice lawsuits, one of which is a wrongful death suit. Two of the lawsuits were pending when RIOC signed the contract with Bannerman.
- In November of 2020, Haynes told his Chief of Staff (formerly his Executive Assistant), Aida Morales, and General Counsel (formerly the Internal Controls Officer), Gretchen Robinson, that Swift Emergency Care would be the testing site vendor.
- At the behest of Haynes, a questionable procurement process was performed by the Director of Organizational Efficiency & Special Programs (formerly Director of Parks & Recreation), Mary Cunneen. Months later, Cunneen was awarded a second title of Internal Controls Officer.
- Haynes shared internally and publicly that Swift Emergency Care was an OGS vendor and recommended by New York State, which was not the case.
- Despite more cost effective, established, and credible testing options that RIOC had previously partnered with elected officials on, Swift Emergency Care was officially chosen as the vendor in December of 2020 -- without any involvement or support from local elected officials.
- Also in December of 2020, Swift Emergency Care created a social media account where the first three followers were Haynes, Bannerman, and Africa Connect (Bannerman’s music business).
- Swift Emergency Care’s official address is listed as Bannerman’s New York City home address.
- When the site first opened, calls to the site’s main number went to Bannerman’s personal cell phone.
- Knowing that, per procurement guidelines, Board approval would be needed for services over $175K, Haynes set overall payment to stay below that amount.
- However, a substantial amount of funds were allocated to the site’s operations.
- 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.
- Additionally, Haynes requested staff from several departments work to find federal funding for the site.
- Upon opening, the site offered free rapid testing for several weeks due to free testing kits given to RIOC from New York State. Eventually, Swift Emergency Care began offering PCR testing, requesting a $200 upfront fee from those who were uninsured -- a stark inconsistency compared to other testing sites.
- RIOC Public Safety Department officers were initially tasked with monitoring lines outside the site. They were quickly moved inside the site to assist Swift Emergency Care healthcare personnel with the operations of the testing site.
- 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.
- Swift Emergency Care stated that they were reporting test results first to New York State, then corrected it to New York City. However, in searching both public and private reporting platforms, no data for the site was found.
- The site misplaced the results of two RIOC employees. One of the two employees received a positive result. Not feeling confident in their experience, this employee went to CityMD to be retested. Both their PCR and rapid tests from CityMD came back negative.
- Bannerman moved to California quickly following the closing of the testing site in June of 2021, after numerous questions by a local blogger.
- Following the closure of the testing site, RIOC moved their offices from 591 Main Street to this location (524 Main Street). During construction to renovate the space again, this time for offices, a new wall was created that covers up the building's emergency exit, dangerously leaving staff with only one way in and out.
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.
According to the Public Safety Department Chief, Kevin Brown, the incident is still under investigation.
Unanswered questions relating to the death:
- What were the certifications and experience of the lifeguards, supervisor on duty, manager, and department head?
- How often does RIOC conduct aquatic emergency drills? Do they conduct such drills? If so, who leads them and are they logged?
- What is RIOC’s aquatic emergency action plan? Do they have one?
The pool was immediately closed to the public for several weeks after the death of the swimmer. Sadly, a few weeks after it was reopened, a four year old child almost drowned in the same pool. The parent of the child was unaware of the previous pool incident and was told by the EMT of the ambulance who was present during the death and coincidentally arrived at the scene to attend to the four year old, that a swimmer had died in the same pool a few weeks prior. This incident was swept under the rug and unbeknownst to the public.
Mismanagement of the AVAC System
For more than 40 years, residents of Roosevelt Island have relied on its AVAC automated, pneumatic waste collection system collecting trash via a 20-inch diameter tube, eliminating daily garbage collection trucks. In 2019 Envac Iberia (who invented automated, pneumatic waste collection) was awarded a $1.7 million contract by RIOC to improve operations and reduce energy consumption to provide at least 30 more years of automated waste collection to the island’s growing residential population.
In May 2021, a significant section of the AVAC system shut down. On what exact date is unclear, as this information was not immediately shared with the community, nor even key staff members until four months later in August. An advisory notified the community that the east side line of the AVAC system was damaged by a discarded bed frame, causing an obstruction and that, due to this obstruction, eight residential buildings’ garbage disposal, via the AVAC system, was impacted.
Building managers at Rivercross initially blocked trash chute access and left large trash bags for garbage collection in lieu of access to the AVAC chutes. Southtown garbage was collected and left outside in the Riverwalk lot (future location of Building 9) for collection, the smell permeating the area and causing concerns the piles of trash would attract rats and other vermin.
On October 6th, 2021, RIOC held a virtual meeting with island building managers to “introduce” RIOC management and to discuss the status of AVAC. A crash course presentation of the system was given to building managers who were already very familiar with AVAC. Meanwhile, questions were raised about the current status of AVAC, what happened, and why it was left unrepaired for several months were left unanswered.
After initially announcing in September that the blockage was cleared and supposedly returning to full functionality, on October 7th RIOC notified residents that the system was under repair on both the east and west lines. Despite RIOC asserting improperly disposed items were to blame, residents and building managers insisted there was water infiltration in the underground vacuum tubes, a larger issue than the reported blockages. Trash from the Roosevelt Landings buildings was placed on the street in front of Capobianco Field, causing a continual stench and an increase in vermin seen on the island.
After six months of consistent AVAC issues, RIOC notified the public that AVAC would be under assessment and service repair for 10 days starting November 9th. On November 23rd, RIOC announced that work was complete and normal operations were resuming. While this was obviously great news to residents who were pleased to no longer see mounds of stinky, vermin-laden trash on their streets, this sudden ending still held many questions and breakdowns throughout the AVAC system continue. The following questions must be answered:
- What exactly was wrong with the system? Was it a bed frame or larger, long-term issue with water infiltrating the lines?
- If the latter, how long had RIOC known that “water infiltration” meant a hole had broken open in the tubes?
- Were the repairs long term fixes or are there more to come?
- What is the long term plan for upkeep of the AVAC system, including procedures for emergency repairs, as well as scheduling regular ENVAC maintenance?
- ENVAC- when were they called in and what really caused the delay in their arrival to make the needed repairs?
This type of negligence will undoubtedly lead to further breakdowns of infrastructure, not only with the AVAC system but throughout areas of heavy public use such as the Roosevelt Island Bridge helix, as well as with critical services, such as the iconic Tramway on Roosevelt Island.
First met during Haynes’ college days in Virginia, Jackson has stayed close to Haynes, residing near him, his wife, and their four children both in Georgia and now in New York City. RIOC would make the third time that Jackson and Haynes have worked together, moving states to do so.
Having only a high school diploma and experience as a clerical assistant for a housing voucher program in Georgia, Jackson was hired at RIOC in January of 2019 as the Director of Operations after Tajuna Sharpe, the Assistant Vice President of Administration (formerly the Director of HR), was tasked by Haynes to post the position with watered down requirements. This role came with an annual salary of $105K. All other candidates interviewed for the role had extensive and impressive resumes. In 2010, Jackson filed for bankruptcy while making an annual salary of $38K with Atlanta Housing.
Within a year of her employment, Haynes created the role of Assistant Vice President of Special Programs & Operations for Jackson, providing a salary increase of $35K. Jackson now has five Director’s under her management and makes $160K. Jackson rarely writes emails other than to robotically write “acknowledged” to almost all correspondences. When she does, she often makes spelling and grammar mistakes, which quickly became a source of mockery among staff. She has admitted to staffers she is eager to learn, has also shared, that they should explain all tasks as they would to a child in order for her to comprehend.
Months before Jackson was hired in 2019 as the Director of Operations, Haynes strongly advocated to Susan Rosenthal, the former President & CEO, that Jackson be hired as his Chief of Staff, a new role that he created. Due to her minimal qualifications, the hire was denied by the former Procurement Director. Rosenthal supported the denial and also objected to the Chief of Staff role as she knew the corporation had no such use for the role. The Procurement Director was later terminated.
Haynes has openly discussed grooming Jackson for his former role of Chief Operating Officer, despite her being keenly unqualified for any of these positions.
Kasheen Key, along-time friend of Haynes, grew up in New York City together and attended Virginia colleges at the same time. While Haynes graduated from Hampton University, Key never graduated from Virginia Union University despite his resume stating otherwise.
When Haynes relocated to Georgia, Key -- like Jackson -- followed. In 2017 (a year after Haynes arrived at RIOC), Key was hired by RIOC to support RIOC facility needs and by 2018, he was later promoted to Senior Youth Center Assistant.
Arah attended Hampton University with Haynes (1997-2013). He was hired in 2020 by RIOC to work in the Public Safety Department where he circumvented standard training for peace officers. When Haynes’ Chief of Staff announced she was going on maternity leave, Graham was secretly moved to the role as Haynes’ Special Assistant. This was made possible by the former Director of Human Resources and the leadership within the Public Safety Department..
Fraud, Abuse of Power, and Toxic Work Environment
Falsifying Work Hours with the assistance of HR
Haynes regularly takes numerous and extended vacations, disregarding the process directed by all staff to note this time on timesheets as well as the designated staff calendar, to report time off. His Chief of Staff (formerly his Executive Assistant), Aida Morales, has covered for him, being extremely vague about his whereabouts when Haynes has been asked to address time-sensitive matters. His timesheets are presumed to be approved by Tajuna Sharpe, the Assistant Vice President of Administration (formerly the Director of HR), allowing him to falsify his work hours. All employees are required to place their time off on the staff calendar, yet Haynes rarely includes his absences on the calendar. Employees believe this is only one of the reasons Sharpe received a title change along with a generous promotion despite her lack of experience demonstrated in her previous role.
Executives Collecting 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.
Using a Historic Landmark as His Sole, Fortified Office Space
After his official appointment as President & CEO in March of 2021, Haynes moved his office to the second floor of Blackwell House, a newly renovated and landmarked home located at 500 Main Street. The house is not ADA compliant, limiting visitor access to meet with him in person. Additionally, Haynes had multiple special security card access readers installed in order to gain access to his office space at Blackwell House.
Haynes and his Chief of Staff (formerly his Executive Assistant), Aida Morales, are the only RIOC staff to occupy Blackwell House. Yet, there’s a special RIOC Public Safety Department Officer posted at Blackwell House as a security detail while Haynes is in the building.
Shortly after his move to Blackwell House and against the advice of the Director of Transportation and other executive staffers, Haynes instructed RIOC maintenance employees to paint four reserved parking spaces across the street from Blackwell House for his and Morales’ vehicles. Parking is available free of charge to all RIOC employees inside the islands’ garage, Motorgate, only a few blocks down the street. As parking on Roosevelt Island is extremely limited, this infuriated residents.
Despite these special accommodations, Haynes cites his office space as 524 Main Street, as seen in his email signature.
Updating Employee Handbook in His Favor
RIOC’s Employee Handbook was recently updated under the request of Haynes once he assumed the role of President & CEO. The updates favor executive management with overtime pay when, in the past, executives were not eligible for overtime pay.
The nepotism section of the handbook has also been updated to reflect that hiring friends is acceptable where, previously, the hiring of friends and family was prohibited.
Secretly Hiring a PR Firm
Despite having a Communications & Community Affairs department, which consists of four individuals, Anat Gerstein, Inc. surprisingly appeared back on RIOC’s vendor payroll as a consultant in February of 2021. The Communications & Community Affairs department was not informed of this hire. The last time RIOC hired Anat Gerstein, Inc., it was at the behest of Fernando Martinez, who later went to jail for felony charges incurred while serving as RIOC’s Vice President of Operations. It is unclear what services Anat Gerstein, Inc. is providing to the corporation.
Mishandling of COVID-19 Related Absences
The Assistant Vice President of Administration (formerly the Director of HR), Tajuna Sharpe, logged COVID-19 absences incorrectly. Time was taken from employees accrued time as opposed to the Special Pay line that was specifically created for COVID-19 related illness and absence. HR did not notify employees stricken with Covid that they were entitled to 14 days of sick leave that would not be charged to their accruals.
A RIOC Public Safety Department Officer was written up when they complained about how they were treated by Sharpe when they contracted COVID-19. The Officer was told by Sharpe, she was not sure where the Officer contracted COVID-19 and insisted RIOC could not assist her. Additionally, Sharpe failed to follow the COVID-19 contact tracing process as mandated by New York State, leaving staff in the dark with questions or leaving them to figure out the process on their own. Sharpe has never exhibited any characteristics of an Human Resources Director. She has been known to cry and throw tantrums when addressing personnel matters. Although, this isn’t surprising considering Sharpe has three civil lawsuits against her. One of which was pending when she was awarded the position of Director of HR at RIOC.
Predatory Behavior/Grooming and Fostering a Toxic Work Environment
As an intimidation tactic, Haynes has readily shared that he has access to security cameras both inside all RIOC facilities and on the island’s streets as if to warn staff, “I’m watching you.” He is known to spend hours watching the whereabouts of staffers.
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.
When Rosenthal was fired in 2020 after a swift GOER investigation, Haynes used the opportunity to sway the Governor's office and the RIOC Board into believing he was a victim in order to become President & CEO. After learning this, employees were shocked that Haynes allowed Rosenthal's behavior to continue, used the experience for personal gain, and -- once in the chair -- did nothing to change the corporation's culture and has actually worsened it.
Staff are asked to “keep Haynes happy” by pandering to him. His former Executive Assistant was told to keep his snack drawer filled and pick up his breakfast and lunch, which would require off-island trips in their personal vehicle. Additionally, assistants have been told to remind him to eat at certain times during the day. One former assistant was told to watch A Devil Wears Prada to better understand how to work with him. This was expressed to them on several occasions as he was adamant, directing them to pause their work scheduled for the day to make time to watch the movie in his office.
Employees of all levels who interact with Haynes are often humiliated amongst peers, in person, and by email. The poisonous standard displayed by Haynes has resulted in a systemic culture full of bullying, gaslighting, and lack of accountability.
Inappropriate Behavior Towards Women
Although it is seen that Haynes has surrounded himself by the support of women, his treatment towards them says the opposite. They are often bullied and subjected to verbally and emotionally abusive behavior by Haynes, and are regularly harassed and mistreated compared to their male co-workers who are held at a lower standard. Whether it is his repeated disclosure of having had a vasectomy during a staff meeting, mentioning his fear of having the vasectomy surgery during smaller group conversations with women, or offering his single male friends as dating prospects to single women in the office, Haynes has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he has no boundaries, making RIOC’s work environment one that is truly unsafe and uncomfortable for women.
Micromanagement and Information Control
Haynes reportedly requires review and approval of all correspondence from his Communications & Community Affairs department. Everything from responses to local bloggers and social media posts, to newsletter content and emails outside the corporation must be reviewed, are often edited, and have to be approved by Haynes before they’re sent out.
While the community continuously requests more robust communications from RIOC, Haynes suppresses information by micromanaging all communications.
Haynes’ disregard and disrespect of the community he supposedly serves has reached the extremes of directing RIOC staff not to engage with community members, and in fact to downright ignore their calls and inquiries; one such example being a directive not to engage with 40-year resident and longtime community leader, Judith Berdy, President of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.
With current open investigations, Haynes has tasked Gretchen Robinson, RIOC’s General Counsel to share with him, first, information that's been requested for investigations so he can filter what is passed to the Inspector General. This has delayed and influenced several investigations and FOIL requests.
Retaliation Against Staff Who Tried to Speak Up
In the past three years, several staff were fired or retaliated against for questioning the competence and/or lack of leadership of Haynes, unwilling to engage in unethical requests from Haynes, raising questions about the capability of his hires, speaking up about pervasive bullying from Haynes, or who witnessed Haynes and Jackson’s relationship:
- Jonna Carmona-Graf, former AVP, Capital Planning & Projects
- Steve Noone, former AVP, Capital Planning & Projects
- Nnaedozie (Chris) Agbasonu, former Maintenance Supervisor
- Rudy Rajaballey, former Purchasing Manager
- Natalie Grant-Henriques, former Procurement Specialist
- Alexis Morant, former Operations Analyst
- Arthur Eliav, former Associate General Counsel
- Karline Jean, former Executive Assistant
- Andrew Berko, former Comptroller
- Innocent Ulahannan, former Revenue Collections Manager
- Debrah Kustka, former VP/Chief Operating Officer
This didn’t come as a surprise to Jackson, who told staff that “Mr. Haynes is tough and you should’ve seen how many people he has fired before. Angry staff even keyed his vehicle.”
Violating New York State Public Ethics Laws
Intentional Delaying of FOIL requests
As transparency has been made a hallmark of the Hochul administration, the FOIL request process and its compliance has severely lagged behind at RIOC. The new scaled back process allows agencies to handle most FOIL requests in an expeditious manner, eliminating the delays that were common practice under the Cuomo administration. Unfortunately, this is not the case at RIOC. Gretchen Robison, General Counsel, a former employee of NYC’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, has applied similar tactics to RIOC FOIL requests. She has delayed the forwarding of information to the public well beyond the 45 day wait period. A Roosevelt Island blogger has publicly complained about this tactic and the delay in receiving minor requests such as resumes, RIOC’s detailed budget, and salaries of current RIOC employees which should be easily made available and/or posted to RIOC’s website. She has also notified Hayne’s of the requests, allowing him to not only filter information that’s given but provide fraudulent information instead.
Violating New York State Equal Employment Laws
Haynes has violated New York State equal employment laws by gender and sexual orientation discrimination, and has clear misogynistic tendencies.
RIOC’s cleaning services are contracted out to New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID). While on a video call in his office, Haynes was interrupted by a member of the cleaning crew who wanted to clear his trash can. Annoyed by the unexpected presence of the NYSID employee, Haynes later went to the supervisor of the cleaning crew and demanded that the individual be reassigned to another location in the city. After learning about the request, the worker requested to talk to Haynes, stating that he enjoyed working at RIOC and wanted to address the misunderstanding. The request to meet was denied. Later that week, new card access readers were installed, limiting employees' access to Haynes’ office area.
Violating New York State Ethic Laws
During his first year at RIOC (2016), Haynes actively shared with coworkers that he was a “hard worker” who was working another job in addition to his role at RIOC. Haynes never reported this second job, which would be required by New York State ethics laws.
It was discovered that Haynes did outside consulting in July of 2018, not only without permission, but he told staff that he was attending a family reunion. In reality, Haynes was working as a consultant for the Orange County Housing Authority in North Carolina for several months despite not disclosing this or having been granted permission by JCOPE..
RIOC Employee Working at His Personal Residence
It was revealed that RIOC’s former Maintenance Supervisor provided repairs at Haynes’ personal residence on several occasions with equipment purchased and owned by RIOC, violating New York State ethics laws.
Favoritism Due to Pandering
In 2018, Tajuna Sharpe was hired at RIOC as the Director of HR. In September of 2021, Sharpe was promoted to Assistant Vice President of Administration. As a trusted advisor, Sharpe aided Haynes in the cover-up of the death at Sportspark. She made sure to remove Altheria Jackson as the employee overseeing Sportspark and assign the maintenance supervisor to the facility.
In 2017, Mary Cunneen was hired at RIOC as the Director of Parks & Recreation. Shortly thereafter, Mary was promoted to Director of Organizational Efficiency & Special Programs, a role that hadn’t previously existed. In 2021, Mary received another promotion with the addition of Internal Controls Officer to her title, a critical role for the corporation that was, at one point, outsourced due to RIOC’s past history of corruption.
In 2018, Prince Shah was hired at RIOC as a Senior Project Manager. In September of 2021, Shah was promoted to Assistant Director of Capital Planning & Projects.
In 2016, Aida Morales was hired at RIOC as an Executive Assistant. In 2020, she began working as Haynes’ Executive Assistant. In September of 2021, Morales was promoted to Chief of Staff.
In 2019, Altheria Jackson was Hired as the Director of Operations. Within that same year, Jackson was promoted to Assistant Vice President of Special Programs & Operations, a role that hadn’t previously existed. It’s been rumored Jackson and Haynes are in a relationship and have been for several years.
Gretchen Robinson was previously the Internal Controls Officer in the role her primary responsibility was to keep Charlene Indelicato. In her current role she continues to neglect and lack the basic understanding of protecting the Corporation. Haynes has asked her to manipulate various laws to his benefit. She believes her role is to appease Haynes. She has received a generous salary increase as one of his loyalists.
Newly added Deputy Counsel, Markus Sztejnberg, continues to aid Haynes and Robinson. Markus hails from the past regime of Cuomo’s Ethics, Risk, and Compliance initiative, he was tasked to aid agencies in cover-up and sweep any unfavorable issues from the Governor. He has sealed a position at RIOC after proving his loyalty to Cuomo and now Haynes.
All promotions of Haynes’ cronies are associated with major salary increases, largely carried out at the expense of other employees who either did not receive salary increases or were terminated altogether. Salaries of terminated employees were redistributed to his cronies allowing the overall personnel budget to stay rightly the same, thus complying with the department of budget’s directive of avoiding any increase and staying “under the radar”. In general, promotions are arbitrary and lack structure.
Recommended Corrective Actions to address the extremely toxic and unhealthy culture:
- Immediate removal and independent investigation of Shelton J. Haynes
- Immediate removal of executive staff: Gretchen Robinson, Tajuna Sharpe, Markus Sztejnberg, and Altheria Jackson
- Immediate removal of all Haynes’ cronies
- The immediate resignation of all RIOC Board members
- Conduct an Executive search for all executive positions, prioritizing professional experience and integrity
- Tighter background checks conducted by the appointments office
- Complete overhaul and review of RIOC hiring process
- Full financial forensic investigation into RIOC budgets
Regularly scheduled in-person Diversity & Inclusion Training for ALL staff
- Complete review and investigation of all FOIL requests under Haynes’ administration
RIOC lacks leadership and ethical stewards when it comes to both the community and RIOC employees. The Governor’s office continues to appoint corrupt, self-serving, and unqualified individuals which has ruined the corporation, all at the expense of taxpayers. With the recent bills Governor Hochul has passed, community members and employees expect change.
As mentioned, RIOC has a long history of corruption and an ongoing toxic and hostile work environment, with former President & CEO, Leslie Torres (2010-2012), along with Fernando Martinez, former VP of Operations, Steve Chironis, CFO, preceded by Charlene Indelicato, former President & CEO (2013-2016), Susan Rosenthal, former General Counsel, later President & CEO (2016- 2020), and now Shelton Haynes.
Haynes has approached his tenure at RIOC strategically, placing friends in roles that insulate him from accountability, enable the concealment of critical information, and facilitate misconduct through bribery with advancement within the corporation. His toxic and tyrannical tentacles have poisoned what was once a thriving public benefit corporation put in place for the betterment of a community, degrading it to a personal ATM and taxpayer sponsored picnic for him and his unqualified friends.