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Mayor-elect Eric Adams on Tuesday tapped a couple of veteran municipal government watchdogs to help him root out “waste, fraud and abuse” in City Hall — and defended the potential pick of a former NYPD cop once engulfed in a bribery scandal.
Adams, who’s set to be sworn in as mayor Saturday, unveiled his two new picks, Lisa Flores and Marjorie Landa, during a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall, saying they’ll work alongside his chief counsel Brendan McGuire to pursue a “zero tolerance” agenda on “dysfunctionality” in city government.
Flores and Landa, who both currently serve as deputy city comptrollers, will respectively take over as directors of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services and the Mayor’s Office of Risk Management and Compliance, roles that come with oversight of procurement, outsourcing and budgetary matters, Adams said.
“Rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in our agencies will help our city deliver for those who need it most, and these new appointees will serve as watchdogs for our city and make sure taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately,” said Adams. “This is about holding our government to the highest standard of ethics and ensuring it delivers for everyday New Yorkers — because if you don’t inspect what you expect, it’s all suspect.”
But in the next breath, Adams affirmed he’s still considering Phil Banks, a former NYPD chief of department, as his deputy mayor of public safety — even though federal prosecutors in 2014 said in court that Banks was involved in a complicated public corruption scheme that resulted in prison time for several city officials.
“I’m not going to demonize anyone,” Adams told reporters about Banks.
“I believe it’s imperative that we look at this amazing system of justice that we have — like it or not, you know, I spent my life following this system of justice: A person is innocent until proven guilty. That is what I live by,” declared Adams, who served under Banks in the NYPD and considers him a close friend.
Banks abruptly resigned from his top NYPD post in November 2014.
Years later, the feds revealed that Banks, before his resignation, had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexplained income from Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg — a couple of crooked businessmen who’ve since been criminally convicted of bribing top NYPD and city officials.
Though Banks was never formally charged with a crime, the feds named him an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the scheme. The probe resulted in prison time for former jails union boss Norman Seabrook and several NYPD officials. Investigators said Rechnitz and Reichberg also issued bribes to Mayor de Blasio, though he was never formally implicated in criminality, either.
John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany, a good government group active in the city, said Adams’ vow to run a clean ship as mayor falls flat if he moves ahead with picking Banks for the deputy mayor of public safety post — a position that comes with tremendous influence over the NYPD.
“Phil Banks was an unindicted co-conspirator in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the past 20 years in New York City, and for Adams to continue to talk this way is totally incompatible with his pledge of a clean government,” Kaehny asserted. “He can’t be putting the public interest in the hands of this guy.”