To the Editor: Mayor Eric Adams has a problem, and that problem has a name: Philip Banks III.
Banks is a former NYPD Police Chief who had been under a Federal corruption cloud when he retired suddenly in 2014. He was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a public-corruption case that came out of a suspected illegal liquor-distribution ring. Evidence showed that Mr. Banks accepted gifts from people seeking to influence city officials, but he was not charged with a crime.
Banks and his wife were also under criminal investigation by the IRS for not paying taxes over seven years on $240,000 in rental property in Queens. This led to the FBI seeking a wiretap on Banks. Banks's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said the income was offset by Banks's expenses. No criminal charges were filed.
Besides serious questions about his ethical integrity, Banks showed he had an outsized ego and belief in his own importance when he tried to stage what could be called a "coup" when he was being considered for the job of First Deputy Commissioner shortly before his sudden resignation. Banks told Police Commissioner Bill Bratton that he insisted on having control over the Chief of Department (Banks's position at that time) and over the Internal Affairs Bureau. Banks didn't get the job and retired under a cloud.
Notwithstanding Philip Banks's questionable integrity, Eric Adams has relied heavily on him to oversee the NYPD supervisory selection process, interviewing candidates and recommending who should manage NYPD patrol precincts and supervisors in the Department of Correction. He was ready to appoint Banks to be Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, which would probably put Banks between Adams and his Police Commissioner, Keechant Sewell. But when Banks's questionable past was brought up at the time of Ms. Sewell's appointment, Adams said the Banks appointment was not a certainty.
While Eric Adams and others on his team praise Banks's credentials as an NYPD supervisor, questions about his integrity could undercut his ability to oversee a police department that interacts with other law-enforcement agencies. How much confidence would other city, state and Federal agencies have in the NYPD if Banks were the Number 2 (or Number 1) person in charge? Would Banks ever get the FBI top-secret clearance he would need to sit in on meetings about terrorist threats and other critical national issues?
If Eric Adams brings on Banks for a high-level position, some will question Adams's own honesty and integrity. There is one way that Adams could "have his cake and eat it too" with regard to Philip Banks III: Have him submit to a comprehensive and intensive public interview to answer the questions that prosecutors and others have with regard to his past.
MICHAEL J. GORMAN