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New York mayor Eric Adams faces nepotism claim over job for brother
The Democrat has faced criticism over police role for brother and appointment of scandal-hit former officer to public safety post
Eric Adams has promised to restore “swagger” to New York, the city he has run as mayor for barely a week. In that brief time, he has also attracted fierce criticism and flirted with scandal.
As deputy mayor for public safety, Adams appointed a former top police chief who resigned during a federal investigation.
Eric Adams is sworn in after New York’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square. Many progressives are approaching Adams’ mayoralty with caution.
Progressives concerned as Eric Adams takes helm as New York mayor
Adams, a former NYPD officer himself, also made his own brother a deputy police commissioner.
In further controversy, Adams’s pick for New York police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, the first woman to fill the post, has clashed with the Manhattan district attorney over proposed criminal justice reforms.
Adams’s pick for the public safety post is Philip Banks III. In 2014, he resigned from the NYPD after being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in an FBI corruption investigation.
On Friday, Banks sought to dispel questions about his involvement in that scandal, which included questions about deposits totaling $300,000 in bank accounts belonging to him and his wife.
“I never broke the law, nor did I ever betray the public trust by abusing my authority as an NYPD official,” Banks wrote in the New York Daily News. “From here on, I promise all New Yorkers that I will let my hard work be the evidence of my commitment.”
Mayor Adams’s brother, Bernard Adams, is a retired NYPD sergeant who most recently worked as assistant director of operations for parking and transportation at the medical campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.
He was appointed as deputy police commissioner with a $240,000-a-year salary – exposing the mayor to accusations of nepotism.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a good governance group, told City & State: “New Yorkers expect that public servants are hired based on their unique qualifications and not because they are the mayor’s brother.”
Lerner said a waiver from the city conflict of interest board would be required, but “even with a waiver, the appointment of the mayor’s close relative does not inspire public confidence”.
Bernard Adams’s responsibilities have not been described.
Sewell, the new police commissioner, made headlines of her own when she said reforms announced by Alvin Bragg, the city’s new top prosecutor, aiming to decriminalise minor crimes including resisting arrest, raised concerns “about the implications to [the safety of] police officers, the safety of the public and justice for the victims”.
“I have strongly recommended to the Manhattan district attorney not to go forward with a policy that treats felony gunpoint robberies of our commercial establishments as misdemeanor shoplifting offenses,” Sewell wrote in a widely leaked letter to police offices.
Adams has also vowed to keep New York public schools open for in-person teaching during the Omicron Covid wave and is pushing companies to abandon “remote working” and return workers to office jobs, for the sake of small business.
On Wednesday, Adams said “low-skill workers, my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoe-shine people, those who work at Dunkin’ Donuts” did not possess “academic skills to sit in a corner office”.
That provoked a backlash from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Bronx congresswoman and leading national progressive.
“The suggestion that any job is ‘low skill’,” Ocasio-Cortez said, “is a myth perpetuated by wealthy interests to justify inhumane working conditions, little [or] no healthcare, and low wages.”
In a statement to the Guardian on Saturday, Ravi Mangla, spokesman for the New York Working Families party, said: “Adams ran as a working-class candidate. And after weeks of cosying up to corporate executives, we’re waiting for him to turn his attention to the everyday people who keep the city running.
“What we don’t want is a return to the failed policing models of the past, when communities are asking for real supports and services to get through [the Covid-19] crisis.”