|Mayor Eric Adams makes a housing-related announcement at City Hall on Jan 30.|
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.
Hiram Alejandro Durán/ THE CITY
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.”
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.
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.
Edu Hermelyn, a Democratic district leader married to party leader and Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, has been named “Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives” in the city’s Department of Social Services (DSS)—a position tasked with smoothing relations with local elected officials, according to job listings.
The husband of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party boss is the latest campaign aide to land a gig in Mayor Eric Adams’ administration.
Edu Hermelyn, a Democratic district leader married to party
leader and Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, has been named “Senior
Advisor for Strategic Initiatives” in the city’s Department of Social Services
(DSS)—a position tasked with smoothing relations with local elected officials,
according to job listings. He may have his work cut out for him in some pockets
of his home borough after he ignited
intraparty tensions by reciting a vulgar Spanish-language song
that seemed to target another elected official at a meeting last year.
But Hermelyn has remained a steadfast ally of the new mayor, who has close ties to the Brooklyn Democrats. Adams paid Hermelyn nearly $81,000 for consulting work during his successful campaign, according to financial records first reported by the New York Post.
City Hall officials declined to share Hermelyn’s new salary information, which will be available in the City Record in March.
“[DSS] Commissioner [Gary] Jenkins, just like Mayor Adams, is focused on hiring the best people to serve the best city in the world,” a City Hall spokesperson said. “Edu has been a tireless champion for New Yorkers during his time as a community organizer and will bring fresh insight to the Department of Social Services.”
A DSS spokesperson directed questions to Adams’ press office. Hermelyn did not respond to phone calls and text messages seeking comment.
City Hall provided little information about Hermelyn’s responsibilities, but job listings posted online last month describe an intergovernmental affairs role focused on building relationships with elected officials—a key concern for DSS, which encounters chronic “Not-In-My-Backyard” posturing from lawmakers over where to open homeless shelters and other decisions. DSS is comprised of the Human Resources Administration (HRA) and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).
The responsibilities include “supporting the DSS Commissioner and HRA and DHS Administrators in the development and maintenance of strong political relationships that benefit the agency,” a job listing posted online in early February states.
Hermelyn could start close to home. His wife, Bichotte Hermelyn spoke out against a proposed family shelter in Flatbush last year. She opposed a plan to turn an unused Brooklyn College dorm into a shelter for families with children in January 2021, and urged the city to instead prioritize senior and student housing at the site, according to a statement reported by Bklyner.
“The most immediate needs of the district are affordable housing for CUNY students and seniors as well as supportive services,” Bichotte Hermelyn said in a joint statement with Councilmember Farah Louis and State Sen. Kevin Parker at the time.
The trio also ripped CAMBA, the Flatbush-based nonprofit service provider initially tapped to operate the shelter, calling the organization “ill-equipped to manage any proposed shelter based upon its poor track record with two other sites in the community that has demonstrated little to no progress with delivering critical services on-site.”
The city has since adjusted the plan so that the shelter will now house 200 women, with services provided by the organization Children’s Rescue Fund. The facility is scheduled to open this spring.
Bichotte Hermelyn addressed the shelter again during a Community Board 14 hearing Feb. 7, telling participants she would be “immediately impacted” because the shelter would be located near her home. She said she did not outright reject the plan, however.
“We’re not anti-shelter, but we do have safety and security concerns,” she said, adding that she feared the facility would one day be converted to a men’s shelter.
Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter responded to that concern: “I am [un]equivocally saying that we are not going to change the shelter to men,” she said during the virtual meeting.
Bichotte Hermelyn did not respond to calls or texts seeking comment for this story.
She certainly isn’t alone in her shelter skepticism.
Elected officials routinely oppose the facilities in their districts, despite a right-to-shelter mandate in New York City and an entrenched homelessness crisis affecting every corner of the five boroughs. About 47,000 people, including roughly 8,400 families with children, spend each night in a DHS-contracted shelters, according to daily data tracked by City Limits. More than 60,000 individuals stayed in one of the city’s shelters in December 2021, the most recent data compiled by City Limits shows.
Hermelyn, who is of Haitian and Guyanese descent, could foster strong ties with the West Indian community, especially in Central Brooklyn’s 43rd Assembly District, where he serves a Democratic district leader.
The role may also force him to work closely with Brooklyn lawmakers who have sharply criticized him and his wife.
In November 2021, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, State Sen. Julia Salazar, Assemblymember Martiza Davila and Hermelyn’s former boss, Assemblymember Diana Richardson, demanded that Bichotte Hermelyn step down as party boss and Hermelyn to leave his post as district leader after he recited a crass, sexist song during a party meeting held on Zoom. Davila and other attendees said the song seemed directed at her and inflamed longstanding tensions between progressives and more moderate members of the county party. Hermelyn has said he did not fully understand the song’s meaning.
The reform group New Kings Democrats has led the resistance to the current county party leadership and criticized Hermelyn’s appointment at DSS.
“Despite Hermelyn’s disrespectful conduct towards fellow District Leader and Assembly Member Davila, current party leadership continues to reward connections and loyalty over all else,” said New Kings Democrats President Caitlin Kawaguchi.
Those intraparty disputes aside, Adams has remained loyal to the team that helped him narrowly win the Democratic primary before a landslide general election victory. He has hired a number of aides to work in his administration since taking office Jan. 1, including Jose Bayona as head of the mayor’s office of Community and Ethnic Media, Menashe Shapiro as deputy chief of staff, Tiffany Raspberry as senior advisor for external affairs and Stefan Ringel as a senior advisor.
Adams’ chief of staff, Frank Carone, was formerly counsel to the Brooklyn Democratic Party.