Roles Clarified

RIOC Governance Committee Talks Qualifications, Passes on RIRA Vote

Updated 18 weeks ago David Stone
RIOC Governance Committee Members Howard Polivy, Margie Smith and David Kraut with legal counsel Jaci Flug (right)
RIOC Governance Committee Members Howard Polivy, Margie Smith and David Kraut with legal counsel Jaci Flug (right)
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

May 16th, Committee Chair Margie Smith brought RIOC's Governance Committee together to talk about qualifications for future Board Members and the recent, controversial nominations vote conducted by the Common Council. Conflict was subdued by the cooling vapors of a technicality.

What Makes a Good Board Member?

With RIOC's lead legal counsel Jaci Flug and staff on hand to help sort through the tangles, Margie Smith lead a discussion about what qualifications were most desired in future Board of Directors appointments, explaining that developing a policy was a core responsibility of the Governance Committee.

Committee Members, along with Smith, are Howard Polivy and David Kraut.

Although Smith hoped to add consideration of the recent voting results approved by the RIRA Common Council, Flug's opinion that this was "different than qualifications" set the only serious area of conflict aside until later.

Qualifications the group found easy to agree on included the obvious, personal integrity and the absence of conflicts of interest, and those more abstract - an understanding of business and government affairs and "sound judgment" born of management or policy making experience.

In the end, the most consequential change to an established list of qualifications for State appointments involved substituting a commitment to affordable housing with a “sincere desire to serve the community,” using Smith's wording, and dedication to RIOC's mission to develop Roosevelt Island for the benefit of residents.

The substitution was necessary because "affordable" in terms of housing is determined, not by RIOC, but by the Department of Housing and Community Renewal. (Although RIOC has not confirmed it, it's widely believed that DHCR's afforability concerns are what's held up a decision on Westview's Mitchell-Lama exit for half a year.)

About the RIOC Board Nominating Elections

Once the qualifications were finished off with a unanimous agreement that all seven Board Members, not just the five mandated by law, be residents, Smith asked the committee to approve including the final results of the Common Council's election as a recommendation that would accompany, without being part of, the agreed on qualifications.

Whatever the committee decides is subject to full Board approval.

Smith actively supported the nominating election and considers the results valid, a sign of reaching out to the community. Kraut, in equally strong terms, disagreed. And Flug objected in general, "RIOC the corporation doesn’t get involved in RIRA. We have nothing to do with the RIRA election."

An unresolved gray area exists because, as residents, all present Board Members are, like everyone else who lives here, automatically members of RIRA, a circumstance that can't be ignored.

But that aside, Kraut voiced his opposition "even if this had been a kosher election. This was such a corrupted election process, we can’t put recommendations about it forward to the governor."

Kraut established a position twenty-five years ago that RIOC should maintain a hands-off status with RIRA. It was born out an experience he had while serving as Common Council President.

He continued that he “never supported what the MTG did (in supervising Board nominating elections). It was a cop out. All Members should be elected by the community. Having RIRA do it is not a good thing because it subverts the idea of direct elections.”

Acknowledging Kraut's "No" vote on support for the election results, Smith turned to Polivy.

Noting that it was in his own best interest to have his name included in the results, since he hopes to continue serving on the Board, Polivy determined that his personal benefit created a conflict. He recused himself.

Kraut then followed the same reasoning in also recusing, depriving the committee of a quorum on the issue and leaving it in suspension, neither approved nor disapproved.

Final Notes

Answering a question from Roosevelt Islander blog editor Rick O'Conor, Flug confirmed that RIOC had not received any specific information that the Governor had turned his attention to filling any of the RIOC Board seats, vacant or expired. This has been a key issue since Common Council Government Relations Committee Chair Joyce Short used the existence of such considerations to justify the Common Council's nominating election.

All that has come down from Albany so far is an effort to look at the conditions of all 1,000+ public benefit corporations, their membership and conditions for appointing new members. It's not RIOC specific and may amount to nothing more than general housekeeping in the executive offices.

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