RIYP: Questions Answered

March 12, 2018

The termination of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program (RIYP) on March 2 has left many Islanders with questions. Here are some of the answers. 

 

Did RIOC shut down RIYP?  

Technically, no. The RIOC Board, which manages the Youth Center at 506 Main Street, voted to withhold funds from RIYP, with which it had previously contracted to run the center. Although RIYP had received funds to operate through March 31, the RIYP board of directors decided to cease operations early.

 

Who did the investigation?  

RIOC hired the law firm Bond, Shoeneck & King to investigate RIYP Executive Director Charlie DeFino. The lead lawyer in the investigation, Mark Reinharz, has practiced exclusively in the field of labor and employment law on behalf of management for more than 30 years and is a veteran of many similar investigations. The investigation was limited solely to Mr. DeFino, not RIYP as a whole, and his alleged use of inappropriate language, sexual harassment, and being under the influence of alcohol while on duty.

 

Why won’t RIOC release the full report?  

The report compiled by the law firm is considered “attorney work product,” which includes the writings, reports on conversations with the clients or witnesses, research and confidential materials that reflect an attorney’s impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal research or theories. Also, workplace investigation reports are typically kept confidential to protect the integrity of the process. (In other words, if those interviewed expected the report to become public, people might not have spoken to investigators. The executive summary has been made public.) 

 

Who will operate the Youth Center now?  

RIOC has committed to operating an afterschool program at the Youth Center for second through eighth graders from 2:45-6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The center will open for older youth (up to 21) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. RIOC says it is also working to restore music classes and SAT prep. The RIOC-sponsored youth program will be run by former RIYP Director Roy Magsisi. Additionally, RIOC offered jobs to all of RIYP’s former counselors and has hired many of them. RIOC says it does not plan to operate sports programming or a summer camp.

 

Roy Magsisi 

 

Why no sports or summer camp?

RIOC says its grant for operating the Youth Center has always been intended solely for drop-in programming at the center. In previous years, Beacon money, which comes from a separate City agency, paid for RIYP to organize youth sports and to run their summer camp out of the school. Now The Child Center of New York has the Beacon contract and will be responsible for youth sports and summer camp.

 

Why didn’t RIOC just fire DeFino and keep RIYP?  

RIYP is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. DeFino is its executive director. Therefore, only the RIYP board was empowered to terminate DeFino. RIYP’s grant application relied heavily on DeFino and his experience. RIYP did not submit an alternate application for the grant that did not include DeFino, so the scorers could not consider that as an option when scoring the applications.

 

Who is on the RIYP board of directors? 

The RIYP board consists of Steven Kaufman, Meera Tandon, Maureen Santella, Jimmie Wan, Kwasi Long, Edward Weatherhead, and Dave Evans. A board of directors is the governing body of a nonprofit — essentially DeFino’s boss.

 

Wasn’t the investigation too short?  

The moment a complaint is filed, a workplace investigation must progress in a timely fashion. Investigations commencing within a day or two of the complaint and completed within two weeks have routinely been upheld by courts as sufficient. 

 

Was the PS/IS 217 PTA or administration behind this?  

Neither the PTA nor the school principal has authority over who operates the Youth Center. Although the PTA’s president did sign a letter in opposition to RIYP’s grant, she has stated that she was acting only as an Island parent. Conversely, other members of the PTA have expressed support for RIYP. The PTA as an organization has not expressed an opinion on the issue and has not issued any communication to parents about it. (For full disclosure, the WIRE’s managing editor is on the PTA board.) 

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