October 20th, 2020, a Susan Rosenthal lawsuit angrily lashed out at Governor Cuomo and his henchmen along with RIOC’s own do-nothing board of
enablers directors. By February, it nears a showdown.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By David Stone
Table of Contents
Update: February 19th, 2021: The RIOC/New York State legal team files a steamy rebuttal to Rosenthal’s lawsuit, introducing new, much harsher and raw accusations. Read it here.
Update: December 17th, 2020: After Rosenthal’s legal team served on all parties named in her lawsuit, with a single exception, both parties agree to kick the lawsuit down the road into the new year: “Petitioner’s Proceeding pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law andRules, now returnable on December 21, 2020, shall be and hereby is adjourned to January 29, 2021.
David Kapell was the final board member served, on November 19th, but nothing shows up yet for Jeffrey Escobar. Escobar moved away from Roosevelt Island, and it’s not known whether he remains a member of RIOC’s board.
All board members were named individually and accused of negligence after failing to fulfill legal responsibilities managing the state agency.
Update, November 9th, 2020: RIOC’s board convened a special meeting with the sole purpose of discussing Susan Rosenthal’s lawsuit.
While the state agency enforced its heels dug in commitment to secrecy, pre-talk on Zoom confirmed the topic of the meeting. The lawsuit was filed on October 20th, naming RIOC and every board member by name, and a response is expected this month.
We’ll keep tabs on it and try weeding through RIOC’s strange, self-protecting secrecy to keep you informed.
Rosenthal lawsuit overview…
In a lawsuit filed on Monday, October 20th, ambushed RIOC president CEO Susan Rosenthal demands reinstatement, back pay and more. She vigorously disputes charges made against her, but her filing goes much further.
Details about her firing not previously disclosed are part of the package.
As we suggested in our reports on this mess among messes, an internal “cabal,” according to the lawsuit, disrupts the state agency and has for years. The former chief executive goes further. She says she was warned about a group of troublemakers seeking to oust management when she was hired.
That was in 2015, during the tenure of RIOC president Charlene Indelicato, who hired her as chief legal counsel.
Susan Rosenthal is not racist…
Let’s start with the most obvious.
A major flaw in the attack against Rosenthal is the critical issue of racism.
“The Board member respondents were fully aware of who Susan is as a person and of her record of promoting racial equality and diversity.”Susan Rosenthal Lawsuit
Those who worked with her insist the charge is ludicrous, or as one senior exec told us, “Susan Rosenthal doesn’t have a racist bone in her body.”
Her lawsuit goes on at length about her support for the Black Lives Matter movement as well annual Black History Month events on Roosevelt Island.
Rosenthal’s lawsuit also outlines her consistent promotion of African-American and Hispanic employees.
Bottom line: the charges are bogus, cooked up with a motive:
“Rosenthal’s firing took place hurriedly and harshly on Juneteenth, a day celebrating the end of slavery in America. The termination of Rosenthal, a white woman, was nothing more than a misguided effort by respondents to publicly and deliberately highlight the importance of that day,”
Who’s being sued and why…?
The main thrust of the lawsuit targets RIOC, but it’s unsparing in pointing fingers at individual culprits.
Most important for Roosevelt Islanders, Rosenthal’s lawsuit explains, if vaguely, RIOC’s observable dysfunction. An internal civil war brewed for more than five years with a “cabal” devoted to overthrowing management.
While it’s difficult understanding why this was tolerated, many local residents were aware and can even list the players. This matters because they all still remain employed by RIOC, and sabotaging Rosenthal was far from their first destructive activity.
The group, for example, schemed to destroy the Roosevelt Island Youth Program.
More specifically, the Rosenthal Lawsuit names three Cuomo henchmen, assigned to the dirty work, and every member of RIOC’s board.
The filing accuses each of essentially kowtowing to Cuomo and failing at doing their jobs. Board members, too, failed again in their fiduciary responsibilities for overseeing the state agency.
Noting the board’s spinelessness isn’t new, but in this critical instance, the failures are “astonishing.” Professionals, lawyers yet, harming their reputation through negligence, in service to Albany, seems inexplicable.