Adams last week appointed Philip Banks as his deputy mayor of public safety. Banks is a former chief of department at the New York City Police Department who resigned abruptly and was later named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a police bribery scheme.
Adams also tapped his brother, retired NYPD sergeant Bernard Adams, as a deputy police commissioner. However, Adams has since reduced the role his brother will serve to a lower position, according to reports in the New York Post and New York Times.
Adams said Sunday his brother would be overseeing his security detail and the details of other public officials, but the Post and Times reported the demoted role would include only Adams’ personal security.
“I trust my brother. My brother understands me and if I had to put my life in someone’s hands, I want to put it in the hands of the person that I trust deeply,” Adams, who was an NYPD captain, told reporters at a news conference Sunday defending the decision to appoint his brother.
Adams’ deputy mayor had phone tapped, was named in bribery scheme
Banks joined the NYPD in 1986 and rose to the rank of chief of department, the highest ranking uniformed post.
In 2014, Banks resigned from the police department, an unexpected move because Commissioner William Bratton had already announced Banks would become the department’s first deputy police commissioner, a civilian role.
After his resignation, court documents revealed Banks had his cellphone wiretapped over questions about $300,000 in unexplained cash in his and his wife’s bank account. Investigators received approval to tap Banks’ phone the day before his resignation. Banks was never charged with any crime.
In an op-ed in the New York Daily News published last week, Banks said he never broke the law “nor did I ever betray the public trust by abusing my authority as an NYPD official.” He also denied any financial wrongdoing but apologized for his association with two men who were convicted in a federal corruption scandal.
The bribery scheme centered around Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg who paid officers with gifts and trips in exchange for special favors like police escorts and parking.
“These two men were attempting to corrupt public officials — and I now regret the time I spent with them,” Banks wrote.
At the news conference Sunday, Adams defended his appointment of Banks as well.
“I’m going to pick the best people to do the job to keep my city safe,” Adams said, calling Banks “the best person” for the role.
As a deputy mayor, Banks will oversee public safety agencies. A deputy mayor for public safety had not been appointed in the city since the 1990s. Adams, however, made public safety the central message of his campaign and has vowed to beef up the department’s response to crime. Shootings in the city have ticked up in recent years but remain far lower than their peaks in the 1980s and 1990s, according to police statistics.
Typically, the police commissioner reports directly to the mayor, however, it is unclear how that might change with Banks in the public safety role.
Adams appointed Keechant Sewell as his police commissioner. Sewell, who was previously chief of detectives in the Nassau County Police Department, is the first woman to serve in the role.
Banks’ brother, David Banks, was named the city’s public schools chancellor under Adams.
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Reports: Adams’ brother demoted as mayor seeks conflict of interest waiver
The Times and Post reported this week Bernard Adams’ role in the NYPD would be reduced to “executive director of mayoral security” overseeing only his brother’s security after initially having been announced as a deputy police commissioner.
The Mayor’s Press Office did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
The reports said the change would reduce Adams’ pay from around $240,000 to $210,000.
Eric Adams said Sunday, before the reported demotion, the process of seeking approval from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board was “underway.”
In a statement to USA TODAY, the board’s deputy director of enforcement, Chad Gholizadeh, said the board was prohibited from disclosing whether a public official sought advice or requested a waiver.
In general, when the board is reviewing any request, it “takes into account the relevant law, the totality of the factual circumstances, prior decisions in enforcement matters in which the board was seeking penalties … and its determinations in similar requests for waivers,” Gholizadeh said.
Bernard Adams served as a community affairs sergeant during his NYPD career. Most recently, he was the assistant director for parking at Virginia Commonwealth University. According to the mayor’s office, Bernard Adams would not be drawing from his NYPD pension payments while taking a salary.
It’s not uncommon for New York City mayors to appointment family members to city positions, though recent family members have not taken pay.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sister and daughter both took city jobs with no salary. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, launched a mental health and wellness agency, formerly called ThriveNYC. McCray took no pay, but de Blasio said she should have. The agency drew criticisms over its budget and alleged lack of accountability.
Under de Blasio, the mayor’s security detail also drew scrutiny after a city watchdog report found the former mayor had misused city resources in his security team during his presidential run. The report also said de Blasio’s security team was used improperly for his children’s personal needs.
Contributing: The Associated Press