NEW YORK - New York City Mayor Eric Adams is putting his younger brother in charge of his security detail, backing off a previous push to install him in a high-ranking NYPD post - but the switch up did not mollify government watchdogs concerned that the intrafamily hire flies in the face of city ethics law.
Bernard Adams, who hasn't served in law enforcement since retiring as a New York Police Department sergeant in 2006, was first supposed to get a deputy commissioner of governmental affairs job in the department, a powerful post that comes with a $240,000 salary and policy-making authority, as reported by the New York Daily News last week.
However, as the appointment spurred controversy and allegations of nepotism, the mayor shifted gears and instead tapped his brother to become executive director of mayoral security, a City Hall official said Wednesday.
The security director role is also within the NYPD, but lower in rank than the deputy commissioner position. It also comes with a lower salary of $210,000, the source said.
While the reassignment may seem like a demotion, John Kaehny, executive director of the Reinvent Albany good government group, said it does nothing to address the nepotism issue.
"Adams wants to be the swagger mayor, which is great, but the mayor also should lead by example and when you're hiring your brother, the example you're setting is nepotism and conflicts of interest," Kaehny said. "Not to mention that it's likely not legal."
The City Charter bars elected officials from providing any form of financial gain for associates and relatives. Previous mayors who hired their family members secured waivers from the Conflicts of Interest Board to get around that law - but, unlike Bernard Adams' post, all of those roles were unpaid.
Meantime, Adams' team did not contact COIB about a nepotism waiver for his brother until this past Friday - even though he has been on the NYPD payroll since Dec. 30, the City Hall official confirmed.
The City Hall aide said it was always the plan to seek a COIB waiver for Bernard Adams, and that he began working before they got the paperwork rolling because the mayor was adamant about it.
"The mayor wanted him there on day one to help with security," the aide said.
A COIB spokesman declined to comment on the Bernard Adams reassignment, which was first reported by The New York Times.
Zach Tumin, a retired NYPD deputy commissioner of strategic initiatives, said the decision to downgrade Bernard Adams, 56, to an executive director post comes with an "important" caveat.
"It takes Bernard Adams from 3-stars as deputy commissioner to zero stars as an executive director. He may still wield hefty power via influence, but cannot command by authority," Tumin wrote on Twitter.
As the validity of the Bernard Adams pick remained up in the air, Adams told reporters on Sunday he will let COIB "make the determination" on whether he can hire his brother.
Since retiring from the NYPD, Bernard Adams has worked as an assistant director of parking at a Virginia university, causing some critics to question why he's the most qualified person to provide security for the mayor.
In his Sunday remarks, Adams countered that his brother is the best pick for the job because of their life-long bond.
"My life - my life - I want in the hands of my brother," said the mayor, who's a retired NYPD captain. "He knows his brother, and he's going to keep his brother safe."
Despite claiming on the campaign trail last year that he wouldn't need a security detail as mayor, Adams also said he needs his brother to do security for him due to an "increase in anarchists in this city" and "a serious problem with white supremacy."
If cleared to become the mayoral security honcho, Bernard Adams would likely join his brother at news conferences and other events.
"It's a management position, so sometimes he will be out in the field with the mayor," the City Hall source said.
Bernard Adams isn't the only controversial law enforcement pick made by the new mayor since he took office Jan. 1.
Last week, Adams also appointed former NYPD Chief of Department Phil Banks as his deputy mayor of public safety - even though federal prosecutors years ago named Banks an "unindicted co-conspirator" in a massive public corruption scandal that resulted in prison sentences for several police and city officials.
As deputy mayor of public safety, Banks is expected to have significant influence over NYPD operations.