Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ top aide doubled her salary during the mayoral primary race by working both for his campaign and at her taxpayer-funded job, an examination by THE CITY found.
Ingrid Lewis-Martin earns $172,900 annually as Adams’ deputy borough president — about $6,000 less than her boss. Starting April 15, Adams’ mayoral campaign started paying her $6,500 on a biweekly basis for a total of $40,000 through June 30, records show.
During the time she was depositing the campaign checks — about $75 less a week than her usual city salary — she was also working for the Borough President’s Office, THE CITY learned. That allowed her to nearly double her salary during that period.
Even as she worked on Adams’ successful campaign, she proved a crucial contact for lobbyists seeking support from her boss in his role as borough president.
In late spring, the lobbying firm CMW Strategies LLC targeted Adams’ office to request fiscal-year 2022 funding for two clients: the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). In past years, Adams had steered hundreds of thousands of dollars of discretionary funds to both.
Sometime in May or June, while Lewis-Martin was working on the mayoral campaign, CMW lobbyists met with her and other borough president staff to make their pitch, according to firm officials. They noted this contact in records filed with the city clerk.
In June, Adams awarded grants to both of CMW’s clients: $725,000 to BAM and $936,000 to the Brooklyn Museum, records show.
Late Wednesday — a week after THE CITY inquired about Lewis-Martin’s double duty — a spokesperson for Adams, Jonah Allon, confirmed that the deputy borough president did not take a leave of absence during the time she juggled city worker and campaign aide gigs.
In an email response to THE CITY, Allon wrote that Lewis-Martin used vacation time and a “flexible schedule” that allows “certain” staffers to alter their usual hours “as long as they work the requisite number of hours each week.”
Lewis-Martin was one of seven Brooklyn Borough Hall staffers who worked on Adams’ mayoral campaign leading up to the June 22 primary, which gave him the Democratic nomination, making him the favorite to become the city’s next chief executive.
The arrangements for the other staffers varied, with two taking full leaves and four others using vacation/comp time and the flexible-hours option, Allon said.
“Those who took annual vacation/comp time to work on the campaign were still on the Borough Hall payroll,” Allon added. “Therefore, any meetings or other duties they participated in to fulfill their role as Borough Hall staffers during the dates listed above are in accordance with” city Conflict of Interest Board rules.
Tens of Thousands Earned
Elected officials are strictly prohibited from using public resources they control — such as government staff — to help their political campaigns. The idea is to keep them from spending taxpayer money to stay in office.
City workers are allowed to work on political campaigns, but they can only do so voluntarily and exclusively on their own time. The rules, however, are so loose that it’s often difficult to draw a line between campaign activities and city work, government watchdogs say.
Another mayoral candidate, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, also relied on several city staffers to help out on his campaign. In all five cases, those staffers took unpaid leaves while they were being paid by the campaign, Stringer’s office told THE CITY. None were lobbied while working on the campaign.
Other top Brooklyn borough president staffers who wound up on Adams’ mayoral campaign payroll included:
- Gladys Miranda, Adams’ $103,000-a-year assistant to the borough president, who was paid $21,000 by the campaign from March through June. Miranda did not take a leave, but used vacation/comp time, Allon said.
- Stefan Ringel, Adams’ $109,000-a-year special assistant to the borough president, who got his first campaign paycheck April 30 and earned a total of $20,000 through June. Ringel took a leave of absence, Allon said.
- Rachel Atcheson, the $70,000-a-year secretary to the borough president, who was paid $15,000 by the campaign from April through June. Atcheson also took a leave, Allon said.
- Allon, a $72,000-a-year Borough Hall press aide, who was paid $4,000 by the campaign in June.
The city charter mandates that “No public servant shall use or attempt to use his or her position as a public servant for financial gain, contract, license privilege or other personal or private advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any other person associated with the public servant.”
It also states public servants are barred from requesting that a subordinate work on a campaign.
In his emailed response to THE CITY’s questions, Allon wrote, “At no time did Borough President Adams ask any Borough Hall staff to join his campaign. All Borough Hall staffers joined the campaign voluntarily, and adhered to all relevant [city Conflicts of Interest Board] and Campaign Finance Board (CFB) rules.”
Allon said the staff were provided with ethics training on the city’s conflict-of-interest rules.
John Kaehny, director of the non-partisan good government group Reinvent Albany, spelled out the city Conflicts of Interest Board rules that allow city workers to work on political campaigns.
“COIB says it’s permissible for full-time government employees to work as much as they want on political campaigns as long as they are not using government time or resources for campaign activities,” he said. “Implicit is that city workers can use paid vacation or personal time to work on campaigns. Since many people worked remotely during COVID, it’s entirely possible that Borough Hall used break-times to do campaign work.”
“While it’s eyebrow-raising, we think what you describe is legal,” he added.
Last week, Politico reported that Lewis-Martin, who is married to Adams’ former partner from his NYPD days, is part of the Democratic candidate’s inner circle plotting the administration he’d bring to City Hall if he wins the November general election as widely expected.
This was not the first time Lewis-Martin has done double duty for Adams: In 2017, she was paid $50,000 by Adams’ campaign for re-election as borough president, with regular bi-weekly checks from July through November.
During that time, she was listed as the target of two lobbyist firms seeking support from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office on behalf of two clients, affordable housing developer Lettire Construction and a real estate entity called Coney Island Holdings LLC.
Lewis-Martin has built a reputation as Adams’ tough-as-nails gatekeeper, rankling some along the way.
Just ask Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, a longtime chair of Crown Heights’ Community Board 9 and an assistant commissioner at the state’s housing department, who has known Lewis-Martin since she served as Adams’ chief of staff when he was a state senator.
When Adams took office at borough hall in 2014, Goldstein said, Lewis-Martin started making moves right away to push out the board’s long-serving district manager, Pearl Miles, and later, Goldstein.
“She started early on, maybe two or three weeks in, she started the crap with Pearl. That’s when I started understanding,” he said.
Goldstein said he stepped down from the board in 2014 amid pressure from Adams’ office and the board leadership. Miles later filed a lawsuit against the city alleging age discrimination.
The rabbi filed his own lawsuit, claiming Lewis-Martin and Adams collaborated to not reappoint him to the board as retaliation for his support of Miles.
He settled the suit with the city in late 2016 for $75,000 according to records from the city Comptroller’s Office.