NEW YORK (PIX11/AP) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams accomplished a lot in his first week, but some of his decisions were not without controversy. The mayor’s younger brother, Bernard Adams, was reportedly granted a prominent new six-figure job as a deputy commissioner in the NYPD, raising legal and ethical questions.
City Hall would not deny or confirm the hiring of retired NYPD Sgt. Adams to NEWS10’s sister station in New York City, but political sources revealed that he would be reporting to Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell in the new role. Bernard Adams’ LinkedIn profile lists his recent employment as a parking administrator at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“The public blowback already has been swift and just people disappointed with Eric Adams,” Jeff Coltin, a senior reporter with City & State, explained. “There’s specific conflict of interest laws against a public official or even a public servant, using their influence to get loved ones and relations jobs. It really seems like Eric Adams is coming in violation of that here.”
In a statement, Susan Lerner of watchdog group Common Cause/NY said, “As the City Charter makes clear, New Yorkers expect that public servants are hired based on their unique qualifications and not because they are the Mayor’s brother.”
Another appointment from the Adams administration also raised eyebrows. Philip Banks, who resigned from the NYPD in 2014 while under federal investigation for corruption, was named the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety on Friday, reviving a position not seen in the Big Apple since the early 1990s. He’s the brother of the new city schools chancellor, David Banks.
“I need a partner in government who understands what it takes to keep New Yorkers safe,” Mayor Adams said after appointing Philip Banks. And City Hall pointed out that Banks was never charged with a crime. According to the Associated Press, however, his phone was once federally wiretapped.
Banks, a top adviser to Adams, has been helping to reshape the police department for the new mayor’s administration, taking a leading role in the search that led to the appointment of Keechant Sewell as the city’s first female police commissioner. Mayor Adams, a former police captain, has given outsize attention to his old department in his first week on the job, accompanying Sewell to events and addressing officers one morning at roll call.
Typically, the police commissioner reports directly to the mayor and has the final say on hiring and disciplinary issues. It was not immediately clear how that might change with Banks also taking on a public safety leadership role.
Banks abruptly quit the police department in 2014 after then-Commissioner William Bratton announced his promotion to First Deputy Commissioner. It was later revealed he was an unindicted co-conspirator in a police bribery scheme.
Court papers showed federal investigators obtained approval for a wiretap on Banks’ cellphone the day before he resigned amid questions about $300,000 that wound up in bank accounts belonging to him and his wife. Banks denied any wrongdoing, but apologized for what he said was a mistake in interacting with two men who went to prison for their involvement in the bribery scheme.
Banks said he had invested his money with one of the men, a fundraiser for former Mayor Bill de Blasio, because he had believed he was a legitimate businessman. “I never broke the law, nor did I ever betray the public trust by abusing my authority as an NYPD official,” Banks wrote in his guest essay. “The central theme of the reports about my involvement in the corruption scheme was that I was party to it; that I traded favors as a senior NYPD official for some form of compensation. That is 100% false.”
“It is an odd thing to watch and listen to your name get dragged through the mud,” Banks wrote, denying that he left the NYPD to avoid a departmental disciplinary trial on the investigation, calling the suggestion “completely false.”
Banks joined the police department in 1986 and worked as the commanding officer of a Manhattan patrol borough and several precincts before being named chief of department in March 2013.