New Evidence: RIOC Negligence and Public Money for RISA

Updated 2 weeks ago David Stone
New Evidence: RIOC Negligence and Public Money for RISA

A simple inquiry surfaced new evidence of RIOC negligence in giving away scarce public money to RISA, the Roosevelt Island Senior Association. Was someone asleep at the wheel?

Accidental Discovery: New Evidence of RIOC Negligence with Public Money and RISA

It seems like every time you turn over a rock, you find new evidence of RISA's lack of qualification for receiving public money coupled with RIOC's negligence in refusing to see it.

"Prequalification of not-for-profit vendors is an essential precursor to doing business with New York State. It involves the submission of a Prequalification Application which includes the Document Vault and a review process," reads the New York State Grants Reform document.

It outlines a process installed in May of 2013.

Another publication, Prequalify for New York State Grants explains...

Nonprofit organizations provide valuable services to millions of New Yorkers on behalf of the State. Grant applications from nonprofits are not evaluated if the nonprofit is not prequalified at the due date and time of the grant opportunity.

Prequalification allows nonprofits to complete most administrative tasks before applying for a specific grant. This process allows the State to screen nonprofits before they apply, ensuring that the State is only partnering with eligible, responsible nonprofit organizations.

Since the pre-qualification document lists the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, RIOC's parent agency, as included, you'd expect RIOC to adhere to this basic step before handing over public money.

Given RISA's history, you'd think they'd be doubly conscientious about it.

But you'd be wrong.

RIOC Muffs Another Chance to Get It Right with RISA

Still unable to understand how RIOC managed to approve $12,000 in Public Purpose Funds to an organization that had not filed on time, never explained suspicious details in its murky history and had soiled the air with spurious claims, in spite of a spirited protest by Board Member Michael Shinozaki, a determined researcher decided to dig deeper.

After detecting numerous apparent errors in RISA's IRS filings that were apparently overlooked by RIOC, he was curious about how the group had managed to prequalify through the State system.

Among others, he was interested in how RISA handled this question:

Within the past five years, have you or any of your affiliates been suspended, cancelled or terminated for cause on any contract?

RISA had been allowed in local media to explain away the early termination of their contract with the City Department for the Aging as nothing worse than a non-renewal. Gullible journalists not only bought it but furthered their cause by supporting a corresponding web of fictions.

"Independent" newspapers can do that. RIOC should not.

Here is the answer this researcher reported in response to his FOIL request in November, last year:

"Roosevelt Island Senior Association (RISA) has never completed their document vault, they have not been reviewed, and have never been prequalified."

Yet RISA was awarded public funds every year by RIOC and again this year.

To our open inquiry about how RIOC approves PPF applicants prior to passing them along to a Common Council committee for review, RIOC President and CEO Susan Rosenthal wrote, "We vet and review all submissions consistent with our procedures."

Maybe it's the procedures that need a redo. Numerous disqualifying factors regarding RISA seem to have slipped through.

Common Council Public Purpose Funds Committee Chair Dave Evans told us that his group assumes RIOC thoroughly vets applicants before his group gets them. The Common Council, a voluntary, unpaid organization has nothing close to the resources necessary for doing it themselves.

Conclusion

We were careful to use the term "RIOC negligence," not more charged terms like malfeasance or corruption, terms too easily tossed around.

While there is no evidence of impropriety within RIOC or of anyone gaining anything, but it's clear that, for whatever reasons, the State agency has shown persistent favoritism to RISA, overlooking serious disqualifying factors and allowing them to bend rules no other group bends.

Both RISA and RIOC have the potential to contribute constructively in our community. A separate set of rules for a single group and a failure to dig beneath the surface are not acceptable.

Our volunteer researcher found this information easily and played by the rules. It should have been even easier for RIOC.

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