Adams Advisor Resigns New City Job After Questions About Democratic Party Post
Edu Hermelyn, husband of Brooklyn Democratic Party chair Rodneyse Bichotte and a party leader himself, quits his paid position after THE CITY asked about rules forbidding dual government and political roles. Another top mayoral aide is taking leave to run against a Bichotte foe.
The husband of a top Brooklyn Democratic party leader resigned from his newly appointed position in the administration of Mayor Eric Adams on Friday — the same day THE CITY asked about rules that appear to prohibit his simultaneously maintaining a key political party role.
Edu Hermelyn, a district leader for the Brooklyn Democrats in Crown Heights, was only recently appointed as “senior advisor for strategic initiatives” at the Department of Social Services, City Limits reported.
He’s married to party leader Rodneyse Bichotte, who’s also a Brooklyn Assembly member. She was a staunch supporter of Adams in his campaign for mayor, and Hermelyn’s consulting firm earned more than $80,000 in fees on Adams’ mayoral campaign.
His resignation was revealed by a City Hall spokesperson after THE CITY posed questions about city rules that prohibit high-level administration appointees from holding political roles, including district leader.
The officials said Hermelyn was cleared by the Conflicts of Interest Board to serve specifically in the senior advisor role at the Department of Social Services. They said that because of an error in processing his paperwork, he was put on a different employment line — and that when the error was identified, he decided to resign effective Friday.
They did not offer further clarifications in response to additional questions.
Earlier in the day, Hermelyn didn’t respond to requests for comment from THE CITY about his position or on the apparent prohibition of his holding onto the district leader role.
Brooklyn district leaders, who are unpaid, serve on the executive committee of the Kings County Democratic Party and are involved in a host of decisions that include voting on highly valued party endorsements of candidates for judicial seats.
The party chair’s control over decision-making is based largely on the support of district leaders — making allies like Bichotte’s husband essential to doing business.
Before Hermelyn’s resignation became public, a spokesperson for a dissident group of Brooklyn Democrats was arguing that his dual government-and-political roles don’t wash.
“The conflicts of interest are clear. A district leader appointed by the Party Chair — his spouse — now gets a government job from an elected official that he supported,” said Tony Melone, communications director for the New Kings Democrats.
“Party leaders should put the voters in their district first. This June, voters will have a chance to elect district leaders who can bring integrity and transparency back to our party.”
At an unrelated press conference on Saturday, Mayor Adams blamed unnamed “HR personnel” for the “error” of placing Hermelyn in a managerial position in city government. “Once that was identified, we rectified,” he said. “When things are brought to me, you know me, I get stuff done. No reason to act like, ‘Let’s see if we can cover something up.’ No. It was wrong.”
Leave of Absence
Another high-ranking official in the Adams administration, Pinchas “Pinny” Ringel, is meanwhile taking a leave of absence from his government job after THE CITY asked about his declared candidacy for Democratic district leader in Brooklyn.
A City Hall spokesperson said Ringel had been planning to take leave after forming a candidate committee, as required by city rules, but that out of an abundance of caution he would start the leave next week.
Ringel, an influential liaison between City Hall and Jewish communities, announced earlier this week he’s running to serve as district leader — with the reported backing of party leader Bichotte Hermelyn — in a bid to dislodge an incumbent who supported Andrew Yang for mayor instead of Adams.
City records show Ringel, a longtime senior aide to former Mayor Bill de Blasio, was appointed on Dec. 26 in the final days of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration as an $150,000-per-year executive assistant to the commissioner of the Department of Sanitation, after years on the payroll of the city’s child welfare agency.
The publication Hamodia, which first reported on Ringel’s bid for district leader in the 48th Assembly district covering Borough Park and Midwood in Brooklyn, said his actual role was assistant commissioner in the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, following a promotion under de Blasio last May.
Brooklyn election lawyer Howard Graubard — a frequent critic of the party committee — told THE CITY that given Ringel’s duties, a district leader post should in fact be off limits under city personnel rules.
“It does not look to me like he’s prohibited from running. It seems more likely that he’s prohibited from serving,” said Graubard, who tweeted about the restrictions Thursday.
“Back when I worked in the Mayor’s Office, in a somewhat lower position than Pinny’s, they forced me to resign from the Democratic County Committee,” he wrote of his time in the administration of former Mayor David Dinkins.
Another high-ranking member of the Adams administration, former City Council member Mark Treyger, decided to step down from his Brooklyn Democratic district leader post as he took on his newly appointed role as director of intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Education in January, a source close to the Brooklyn party told THE CITY.
Reached by phone, Ringel did not respond to questions from THE CITY, and Treyger didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
A 2009 memo by the city Law Department details stringent rules governing political behavior by municipal workers, including the 1988 mayoral personnel order highlighted by Graubard.
It reads: “Management employees in mayoral agencies serving in un-classified, exempt or non-competitive titles or serving provisionally in competitive titles are not permitted to serve as officers of any political party or political organization or serve as members of any political party committee, including political party district leader.”
The memo also highlights a section of the city charter that similarly prohibits city officials with substantial policy-making power from serving in political roles, including district leader.
The determination of which workers have policy-making duties is determined by agency heads, who are required to file a list of such employees with the city conflicts of interest board annually. Ringel wasn’t named in the most recent list, according to COIB records.
Bob Croghan, president of the civil service union the Organization of Staff Analysts, said the rules prohibiting political roles for those appointed to high level positions in government have typically been ignored by mayoral administrations over the years.
“If you’re a district leader, you’re going to be deeply involved in politics,” he said. “Does that mean you shouldn’t be given an appointed job? An argument could be made either way.”
Ringel’s attempt to become a district leader and Hermelyn’s choice to remain one could spark further turmoil within Brooklyn’s Democratic organization.
Political operatives have contended that Ringel is running at the urging of Bichotte and other Adams allies in order to take down current district leader David Schwartz — who has been at odds with party leaders on a number of issues, and endorsed former mayoral candidate Andrew Yang in the race for City Hall against Adams.
This week, a high-ranking Adams administration official reportedly called three City Council members asking them to rescind their publicly tweeted support for Schwartz, according to the New York Daily News.
All three newly elected Council members took down their tweets, the publication said.
Reached by phone, Schwartz declined comment.
Asked Friday morning whether it was appropriate for his administration to be meddling in a local election, Adams said he knew nothing about it.
“The importance is to always have a firewall between politics and governance — we have that,” he said following an unrelated announcement in The Bronx.
Hermelyn, meanwhile, has faced public calls to resign from his district leader position after an incident late last year during a Democratic Party Zoom meeting in which he allegedly recited a sexist, raunchy song lyric in Spanish, which critics say was directed at a party rival. Hermelyn later claimed he didn’t understand the words he had spouted off.