Eric Adams chooses Philip Banks as deputy mayor, despite ethical concerns

In recent weeks, as Mayor Eric Adams unveiled key members of his new administration in one booming press conference after another, one expected decision had not come: the appointment of a former chief from the controversial police to the post of deputy mayor for public security.

Former chief Philip Banks III announced his own appointment as deputy mayor on Friday morning in an opinion piece in The Daily News.

Mr Banks’ appointment had been delayed over concerns over whether his 2014 resignation from the New York Police Department while under federal corruption investigation would damage his credibility and reputation. ability to get the job done. Mr Banks has been named an unindicted co-conspirator in a wide-ranging corruption investigation that has resulted in several convictions.

When he left the force, Mr Banks was Head of Department, the highest uniformed post, and was on the verge of becoming William J. Bratton’s first deputy and then the new Commissioner of Police.

The method of announcement deviated sharply from the protocol; when Mr Adams announced the selection of his other five deputy mayors, all women, on December 20, he held a press conference in Brooklyn Borough Hall where the new appointees were in attendance.

In the opinion piece, Mr Banks dismissed concerns about the corruption investigation; he denied any wrongdoing and said the investigation – which focused on whether Mr Banks and other senior police officials abused their posts in exchange for personal benefits – was not not the cause of his resignation.

“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 the article. “This is 100% false. “

Without mentioning Mr Bratton’s name, Mr Banks said he retired because he and the new commissioner disagreed on the parameters of his role.

Mayor Adams spokesperson Stefan Ringel confirmed the appointment on Friday morning. He said a press release on Mr. Banks’ appointment was coming; it arrived shortly after noon, nearly eight hours after the publication of Mr Banks’ opinion piece. No press conference was scheduled for Friday to introduce Mr. Banks.

When asked why Mr. Banks was allowed to announce his own appointment, Mr. Ringel replied: “We do things in a different way.” The Adams administration did not immediately make Banks available in response to a request for maintenance.

Mr. Adams, a retired police captain, had made public safety the backbone of his successful mayoral campaign. In a statement, the mayor said he needed “a partner in government who understands what it takes to keep New Yorkers safe.”

“Phil Banks is that person, and I am grateful for his continued public service in this new role to help our administration deliver the security we need and the justice we deserve.”

In recent days, Mr Banks, 59, has overseen the mayor’s transition and changes to the police department from an office at 1 Police Plaza. He has been regularly present on the 14th floor, which houses the offices of Mr Adams’ newly appointed police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, and the new first deputy commissioner, according to several people familiar with the case.

Mr Banks personally informed several senior ministry officials on Thursday that they would be replaced, people said. These officials included the Deputy Commissioner of the Home Affairs Office, Joseph Reznick, who was instrumental in the 2014 investigation into Mr Banks’ corruption, which was carried out by a specialized squad of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. and police investigators who deal with cases involving officials and police.

Mr Banks’ involvement in the impeachment of Deputy Commissioner Reznick was first reported by The Daily News.

Mr Adams did not address Mr Banks’ appointment at a morning Staten Island weather news conference or in a subsequent radio interview. The mayor has already praised of Mr. Banks, saying in an interview on NY1 earlier this month that he was “a firm believer that Phil Banks has been an extraordinary law enforcement officer.”

John Kaehny, executive director of the good governance group Reinvent Albany, said the announcement of his appointment by Mr Banks was “extremely unusual”.

“He 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,” Kaehny said. “It is commendable that Eric Adams wants to support his friends and loyalty is a great virtue, but Eric Adams’ duty is to the public, not to Phil Banks.”

According to evidence gathered by the FBI, Mr Banks accepted expensive meals, tickets to sporting events and trips abroad and at home from two businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, who attempted to bribe law enforcement officials in order to obtain favors for their associates, such as police escorts, special parking privileges and the like.

Mr. Rechnitz cooperated with authorities, pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges and testified about his role in court. Mr Reichberg was convicted in 2019 of corruption and conspiracy.

In his Daily News column, Mr Banks said it was “a mistake” to partner with the two men.

“I realize now that even the appearance of our friendship was detrimental to my profession,” he wrote. Mr Banks declined to comment on his relationship with the men when reached by phone last month.

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