Barely a week into his tenure as New York City mayor, Eric Adams is already facing criticism and accusations of nepotism for appointing his younger brother as a deputy police commissioner.
On Sunday, he tried to explain himself.
Adams confirmed that he had indeed tapped Bernard Adams—a retired New York Police Department sergeant—for the post, which commands an annual salary of $242,000. Justifying the move, the mayor said his brother was “qualified” for the position and would be in charge of his personal security.
Interviewing Adams on CNN’s State of the Union, anchor Jake Tapper noted that both the New York Daily News and New York Post had recently reported on the mayor’s appointment of his brother.
“Is that true and if so, doesn’t that at least violate the spirit of the law in New York which says public servants’ friends and family members should not benefit from their positions?” Tapper asked the mayor.
“Well, we have something here in the city called [the] Conflict of Interest Board,” Adams replied. “They do rulings and waivers, it’s going through that process now. They will make the determination and we have a great system here in the city.”
He added: “Let me be clear on this. My brother is qualified for the position, number one. He will be in charge of my security, which is extremely important to me in a time where we see an increase in white supremacy and hate crimes.”
The NYC mayor went on to say he takes his “security in a very serious way” and that he needs to find the “right balance” so the residents of New York don’t feel that he’s “not approachable” and unwilling “to engage with them.” He also claimed this was the reason he took the subway on his first day in office—which featured him calling 911 after witnessing a street fight.
“My brother has a community affairs background, the balance that I need,” Adams continued. “He understands law enforcement. He was a 20-year retired veteran from the police department, and I need someone that I trust around me during these times for my security, and I trust my brother deeply.”
Tapper, meanwhile, took the opportunity to press Adams on another recent controversial appointment.
“You’ve also named former NYPD chief Philip Banks as your deputy mayor. I’m sure you know, he was named an un-indicted co-conspirator in a federal corruption probe and resigned in 2014 after being accused of accepting bribes in return for favors,” the CNN anchor declared. “We should note he denies that vociferously. But are you worried at all about the message you’re sending by appointing someone with that record to be your number two?”
Adams said he was “not at all” worried about how the Banks appointment looked, adding that while “there were some real mistakes and errors” made by the former NYPD chief, Banks wasn’t “accused of a crime.” The mayor further cited rising crime in the city as a rationale for tapping Banks as deputy mayor.
“It really personifies why I need the best person for the job,” Adams proclaimed. “I can’t leave bad people doing bad things to good people on the bench when I have a talented person that just made some bad calculations, bad decisions. He didn’t do anything that was criminal. Phil is a great person.”
He concluded: “Leaving that talent on the bench is the wrong thing to do. He’s the right person for this time to really bring together all of my law enforcement agencies and entities and he’s going to show New York this every day. He’s the right person for this job and I’m excited about having him on the team.”