Next time a New York Democrat complains about an elected government official’s ethics when he or she identifies as Republican, breaking out into uncontrollable laughter would be appropriate.
New New York City Eric Adams, elected as the “anti-de Blasio,” almost immediately proved that he has at least one thing in common with New York’s “Worst Mayor Ever.” Just a few days ago, Ethics Alarms noted that the former mayor had defiantly continued to ask corporate contractors for the city to contribute to a de Blasio slush fund, in a time honored unethical shakedown ploy known as “pay to play,” even though he had been formally warned to cut it out by the city’s ethics board. Now the new improved mayor is also signalling that he isn’t very concerned about ethics, the appearance of impropriety, or conflicts of interest.
Adams appointed as his sole male deputy mayor (the other five are female) Philip Banks III, who comes with some interesting baggage. (That’s Banks above on the right, the new mayor is on the left.)
In 2014 he had resigned from the New York Police Department while under federal corruption investigation in which he was named an unindicted co-conspirator. When he left the force, Banks was Head of Department, the highest uniformed post, and on the verge of becoming the first deputy for the new Commissioner of Police. In a cozy coincidence, his brother, David C. Banks, has been named the new Chancellor of the Mayor’s Schools. David’s live-in significant other—they are “partners” but apparently not married— is Deputy Mayor for Strategic Operations.
The new mayor apparently likes nepotism. Mayor Adams’ younger brother, an ex-cop, was, named last week as a NYPD deputy commissioner. His office is seeking a waiver from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board to allow this. Adams’ justification? “My brother is qualified for the position,” Adams told CNN. maybe so, but unless nobody else is qualified, the rules against nepotism should still apply.
Banks, meanwhile, argues that nobody should be concerned about that old corruption investigation, which focused on whether Banks and other senior police officials abused their posts by taking official action in return for personal benefits…in other words, bribes. “The central theme of the reports on my involvement in the corruption program was that I was part of it; that I traded favors as a senior NYPD official for some form of compensation,” Banks wrote in a Daily News column announcing his own appointment. “This is 100% false. “
Oh! It’s false! Well, that puts any concern to rest, then. After all, what government officials accused of wrongdoing in New York claim innocence when they are guilty? Other than the last governor, of course…
Coincidentally, one of Banks’ first actions upon taking office was to fire Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Home Affairs, Joseph Reznick, who helped oversee the investigation into Banks’ corruption in 2014.
John Kaehny, executive director of the good governance group Reinvent Albany, was not happy about all of this. He told the New York Times, “[Banks] was an unindicted co-conspirator in one of New York’s biggest corruption scandals of the past 20 years, one that directly involved his role as department head. It’s commendable that Eric Adams wants to support his friends, and loyalty is a great virtue, but Eric Adams’s duty is to the public, not Phil Banks.”
What a spoilsport. But Adams and his new administration were ready for such carping, and had a powerful quote of support ready from a prominent African-American public figure known for his ethics in New York matters.
Al Sharpton. I’m not kidding.
“Banks has not been charged or convicted of anything,” Sharpton said in an interview praising the appointment. “His expertise in public security has not been called into question.“
New York City is back, baby!