NYC Mayor can hire his brother, but there's a catch

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

During his first two weeks in office, New York City Mayor Eric Adams named one prominent appointment to the position of Deputy NYPD Commissioner. The pick drew immediate criticism because it was his brother, Bernard Adams. Saying that his brother was “highly qualified” for the position, the Mayor declared that Bernard’s primary responsibility would be to take charge of his brother’s personal security detail. The position traditionally pays a handsome salary of $242,000 per year, which sounded like a pretty sweet gig. Before Bernard’s position could become official, however, the appointment would have to be approved by the Conflict of Interest Board. The board finished its investigation this week and somehow found a way to justify this obvious bit of nepotism, but they included one caveat. The Mayor can only pay Bernard Adams one dollar per year and his title will change. (NY Daily News)

The city’s government ethics watchdog informed Mayor Adams this week that he can only hire his brother for a job in his administration as long as the post is effectively unpaid — and Hizzoner claimed that’s fine with him.

“It was never about the money,” Adams told the Daily News on Thursday after the Conflicts of Interest Board granted him a waiver to appoint his brother, Bernard Adams, as a senior adviser for mayoral security on the condition that he only receive a $1 annual salary.

“Bernard never wanted the money. Bernard wanted to protect his older brother because I protected him when he was a little boy. Now, he’s a grown man.”

So instead of being a Deputy NYP Commissioner with a six-figure salary, Bernard Adams will be the “Senior Adviser for Mayoral Security.” And instead of making nearly a quarter-million dollars per year, he will receive one buck. The Conflict of Interest Board specified that paying him the one dollar annual salary was important because it cements his status as a municipal employee and subjects him to “the same integrity safeguards as other public servants, including annual financial disclosures.”

I suppose this was about the best that the Conflict of Interest Board could do under the circumstances. The other option would have been to cancel the appointment entirely, embarrassing the new mayor as soon as he took office and setting up a rocky relationship with him in the years to come. Requiring Bernard Adams to file annual financial disclosure forms should ensure that Eric Adams doesn’t find some other loophole to pay his brother on the taxpayers’ dime.

The Mayor is saying that he’s fine with this arrangement and that it was “never about the money.” I have to wonder if his brother feels the same way. After all, he was working as the “assistant director for parking” at Virginia Commonwealth University earning more than $100K before being lured away for this new job. And now he has to work essentially for free?

Having grown up with a brother myself, I get how blood is thicker than water and one might place a lot more confidence and trust in their own sibling than a stranger. But this was just such a blatant example of nepotism that I’m still at a loss to explain why Mayor Adams would do such a thing as soon as he took office. Yes, Bernard Adams is a retired police official and is almost certainly qualified for the job. But do you mean to tell me that out of an NYPD force of more than 35,000 cops he couldn’t have found anyone else to handle his security detail besides someone born to the same mother?

Eric Adams was supposed to be the fresh face offering a new approach that would turn things around in New York City after the disastrous tenure of Bill de Blasio. That involved more than just driving down the crime rates and making the city safer. De Blasio was constantly in the news because of his various political donors and cronies winding up in court on corruption charges. We were promised something different with Adams, and perhaps he will still deliver. Yet I can’t help but feel that the decision to hire his brother was an unforced error, causing him to stumble straight out of the gate.