Mayor Eric Adams’ sister-in-law landed $150,000 education department gig

Mayor Eric Adams and his brother, Bernard Adams.
Mayor Eric Adams and his brother, Bernard Adams. (Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY)

This story was originally published on June 8 by THE CITY.

The administration of Eric Adams appointed the mayor’s sister-in-law Sharon Adams to a job at the city Department of Education in March, public records show — with a $150,000-a-year salary, more than double her prior pay as a school teacher in Virginia.

Sharon Adams joined the DOE on March 5 with the title “strategic initiative specialist,” less than a week after her husband, mayoral sibling Bernard Adams, ended his service with the city on Feb. 28. 

On that same day, Sharon Adams left her position in the Richmond Public Schools system, a job that paid her under $73,000, according to a Richmond official.

Bernard Adams served as senior advisor for mayoral security for just over a year, earning a mere $1 per year despite an initial effort by the mayor to award his brother one of the highest salaries in city government.

The attempts to pay his brother first about $242,000 and then $210,000 were thwarted by city rules that bar public officials from using their positions to benefit close relatives, defined as spouses, domestic partners, children, parents and siblings.

While the rules don’t specifically mention in-laws, Carolyn Miller, executive director of the city Conflicts of Interest Board, said the prohibition could be applied in cases where an official takes action that benefits a close family member’s household.

The appointment of Sharon Adams continues a trend under the Adams administration of awarding well-paying government positions to members of his family, close friends and longtime associates. 

While it’s not unusual for elected officials to surround themselves with confidantes whom they can trust with sensitive information, the mayor has been doing so with some of the top positions in government.

This includes NYPD deputy commissioner Lisa White, whose appointment netted her a nearly five-fold increase in salary, to $241,000, compared to her prior position as a 911 call operator.

As THE CITY previously reported, White did work decades ago for Eric Adams’ advocacy group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and more recently rented a room in her three-bedroom Crown Heights apartment to Adams for a number of years. 

A longtime friend of Eric Adams from his years at the NYPD, Timothy Pearson, is earning over $242,000 as a senior advisor on public safety and coronavirus recovery, while technically on the payroll of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. 

The mayor also last year gave a $190,000 job to the husband of Brooklyn Democratic Party chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who had backed Adams’ mayoral candidacy, as well as to former state Sen. Jesse Hamilton, a protégé of Adams who succeeded him in representing the 20th District in Brooklyn.

Bichotte Hermelyn’s husband, Edu Hermelyn, also a Brooklyn Democratic party official at the time, resigned within weeks from his government position after THE CITY raised questions about how his employment squared with rules that forbid certain mayoral workers from holding political positions.

The Adams administration has maintained that all of its hires are based on merit, including the hiring of Sharon Adams.

DOE spokesperson Nathaniel Styer said her position — described as “assistant director of multi-tiered learning” on a financial disclosure form that Bernard Adams filed with the Conflicts of Interest Board earlier this year — involves training and coaching school staff on systems meant to support students academically and emotionally.

A job listing Styer provided gave the salary range for the role as $115,000 to $150,000.

“Ms. Adams is an educator with nearly 24 years of experience, who exceeds the qualifications for this role, and immediately added value to a critical team that supports schools,” said Styer. 

“Ms. Adams applied for and was interviewed among four other candidates for a position coaching and training educators and school leaders on academic and behavioral supports for students,” he added. “She oversees critical citywide professional learning opportunit[ies] and 88 schools receiving targeted supports.” 

Styer said the mayor played no role in the hiring of Sharon Adams, and she declined to comment when reached by phone.

Another recent hire under the “strategic initiative specialist” title was Pragya Nandini, the deputy director of Adams’ successful 2021 campaign for mayor, who also served as the deputy director of his transition. 

Nandini, whose government role hasn’t been previously reported, was appointed by the Department of Education on Nov. 6, 2022, at a salary of $175,000, city records show.

She didn’t respond to a request for comment sent via direct message on social media, and DOE didn’t respond to inquiries about her role.

Despite last year’s hubbub over the hiring of Bernard Adams, mayoral staffers hailed him as a good person on social media when he announced his departure from the administration in late February. 

Mayoral spokesperson Fabien Levy called Bernard Adams “one of the kindest, most genuine and most capable people I’ve worked with,” while his City Hall colleague, Benny Polatseck, wrote that Bernard Adams is “one of the most loyal, down-to-earth and upbeat people I’ve met in my life.”

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