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Eric Adams Can Hire His Brother, but at Salary of $1, Not $210,000

When a furor erupted over Mayor Eric Adams’s decision to hire his brother to manage his security detail, the mayor retroactively sought formal guidance from the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board and vowed to abide by its determination.

On Thursday, the board made its ruling public: Eric Adams’s brother Bernard can in fact work for New York City, albeit in a much-diminished and uncompensated role.

After discussions between the mayor’s office and the board, new terms of employment were agreed upon: Instead of earning $210,000 a year, he will earn $1; instead of serving as the “executive director of mayoral security” within the confines of the New York Police Department, he will instead serve as a “senior adviser for mayoral security” within the office of the mayor.

No city personnel will be allowed to report to him. Nor can he have any “command authority” at the Police Department, according to the Jan. 26 determination, released Thursday morning via a Freedom of Information request.

Bernard Adams has agreed to those conditions, according to a spokesman for the mayor. Instead of a salary, he will continue to receive a city pension of approximately $64,000 from the 20 years he spent working as a New York City police officer before retiring in 2006 as a sergeant.

“Bernard Adams is uniquely qualified for this job, and in order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, he offered to serve for the nominal salary of $1,” said the spokesman, Maxwell Young. “We made this proposal to the Conflicts of Interest Board and they’ve agreed, and we’re grateful to Bernard for being willing to serve the city for no salary.”

Mr. Adams’s new position still requires a board waiver because it confers “power and prestige” on its occupant, the board said.

The decision by the conflicts board amounts to a public rebuke of the new mayor, whose decision to put his brother in charge of his security detail raised alarms among government ethicists.

“COIB just passed a big test to its authority, and the anti-nepotism law survives,” said John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany, a good-government group. “Hopefully Mayor Adams starts appreciating how vast his power is and starts leading by example rather than challenging basic anti-corruption rules.”

Originally, Mayor Adams envisioned his brother — who was most recently employed as a parking administrator at a Virginia university — overseeing not only his own security, but that of other high-ranking city officials, too.

After The New York Post reported he planned to make his brother a deputy police commissioner, with an expected salary of about $240,000 a year, Mr. Adams said that there was no one he was more willing to trust with his own physical safety than his brother.

The Adams administration eventually changed course, saying Bernard Adams would instead serve in a lesser role — overseeing only the mayor’s security, no one else’s — and for a lesser salary of $210,000.

The mayor’s police detail will not report to Bernard Adams, as had been planned. Instead, the mayor’s brother will advise him on mayoral security and community engagement matters, and the Police Department will oversee the mayor’s detail.

“It’s face saving,” said Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School and the former chair of the Conflicts of Interest Board. “He’s allowed to make the appointment, but he’s uncompensated and he has no role in supervising anybody else.”

Though Mr. Adams became a city employee on Dec. 30, he has yet to receive a salary, according to City Hall officials. Nor will he receive any additional compensation from any public or private entity aside from the pension he earned while working for the Police Department and the attendant health care benefits, according to Mr. Young.

The Conflicts of Interest Board did not release the waiver request submitted by Brendan McGuire, Mr. Adams’s chief counsel, or any other written correspondence with the mayor’s office, citing confidentiality provisions of city law. The mayor’s office is permitted to release the waiver request but did not immediately do so.

Mr. Adams is not the first mayor to seek the conflicts board’s guidance when trying to hire a relative.

Soon after taking office in 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio obtained a waiver from the board to appoint his wife, Chirlane McCray, to serve as the unpaid chair of a nonprofit affiliated with city government, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.

The fund was created in 1994 by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani as a vehicle for private entities to provide financial support for city programs and was reorganized under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. But its performance suffered as fund-raising stalled under Ms. McCray.

Mr. Bloomberg, too, obtained permission to hire relatives into city service.

In 2002, the board granted a waiver for his daughter, Emma Bloomberg, to serve as a research and administrative assistant in the mayor’s office without salary or benefits. Mr. Bloomberg also obtained permission for his sister, Marjorie Tiven, to serve as an unpaid commissioner of the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol, now called the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. Her role was to act as a liaison between the city and the diplomatic community and as a hostess and coordinator of ceremonial events.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

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