A career 911 dispatcher and longtime friend of the New York City mayor, Eric Adams, who rented a room to Adams in her apartment in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights for four years now has one of the highest-paid jobs in city government, records show.
In May, the NYPD appointed Lisa White as its deputy commissioner for employee relations, at a salary of more than $241,000 a year – a nearly fivefold boost over her prior salary there and almost as much as the police commissioner makes.
In her new role, White attends to the health, wellbeing and morale of the NYPD’s 35,000 uniformed members, including their corps of chaplains, along with bereavement and other support services for families.
City Hall confirmed that Adams’s connection with White extended beyond a mere professional relationship, also characterizing it as a friendship that dated back decades and that involved sharing an address for years.
Government payroll records show that White served as a 911 operator, formally known as a police communications technician, from 1995 through December 2019, when she retired with a base salary of just over $53,000. She is currently earning a pension of about $30,000 a year, on top of her current salary, according to the website SeeThroughNY.
White’s bio on the NYPD website notes that “throughout her 30-year career with the Department, she served in positions within the Communications Division, including Interim Supervisor.” It also highlights her most recent job before her appointment as deputy commissioner, as a field supervisor for the US Census Bureau.
White’s ties to the mayor run back for years – part of a pattern of appointments by Adams that demonstrates a determination to hire friends, family and former colleagues for top administration posts.
The City Hall spokesperson, Fabien Levy, said Adams played no role in White’s appointment.
He said Adams and White both had a professional relationship and were also friendsfrom their time with the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, which Adams co-founded while he served in the NYPD.
Levy said that before becoming mayor, Adams rented a room at the Crown Heights address.
Before White’s deputy commissioner appointment, she served as a volunteer board member and treasurer for Adams’s Brooklyn Borough Hall-affiliated non-profit, the One Brooklyn Fund, from 2014 to 2021, according to tax records and a conflicts of interest disclosure form she filed with the city this year.
Adams used the non-profit not just to hold events and offer services to residents of the community, but also to tout his government work and bolster his standing politically. The fund raised money from businesses and distributed grant dollars to local groups.
The ties between White and Adams go back further still, to at least the 1990s. Media clips indicate White served as a spokesperson for 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, which Adams co-founded to draw attention to and reform the NYPD’s interactions with the Black community.
One news article published in 1999, about a protest by 911 staff over their equipment and working conditions, identifies White as a 911 dispatcher and a member of 100 Blacks. Representing that group, she did an on-air interview in 2000 with the radio show Democracy Now about a wave of sexual assaults in Central Park.
Public records show that for years, White claimed residence at an apartment on the 20th floor of Ebbets Field Apartments, which is in Crown Heights and named for the Dodgers baseball stadium that once stood there.
White made eight political donations from that same address between 2008 and 2019 – including two to Adams’s borough president campaigns, state board of elections records show. The contributions to Adams, both in 2012, list her employer as “NYC Police Department” and her position as “Police Communications Tech”, according to city campaign finance board records. City payroll records confirm her title was “police communications technician”.
In 2013, as Adams ran for borough president, he changed his voter registration – to declare his residence as the same McKeever Place apartment where White had also declared her residence.
City board of election records show Adams maintained that he lived at the McKeever Place unit between June 2013 and March 2017.
White was also paid $1,000 in November 2013 as a consultant for Adams’s initial campaign for Brooklyn borough president – sent to her at the McKeever Place address. She surfaced once more to speak as an Adams political representative in July 2020, as he faced questions about law enforcement contributions to his budding mayoral campaign while protests against police brutality raged.
Just days after Adams was sworn in as mayor on 1 January 2022, the NYPD dismissed its deputy commissioner for employee relations, Robert Ganley – opening the post that the department named White to in May.
White didn’t respond to a message left at a phone number listed for her, and Ganley also didn’t respond.
An unnamed NYPD spokesperson said her appointment fell within department standards.
“Deputy commissioner Lisa White filed for service retirement from the NYPD communications section in 2019, after a 29-year-career with the agency,” said the spokesperson. “Her hiring was in line with the NYPD’s standards for identifying those best suited for their roles within the department.”
Adams has unapologetically hired a number of close friends to top city posts, including David Banks as schools chancellor and Banks’s partner, Sheena Wright, as a deputy mayor.
The mayor tapped Banks’s brother Philip Banks – who resigned as NYPD chief of department in 2014 amid a federal bribery investigation in a case that later identified him as an unindicted co-conspirator – as deputy mayor for public safety, reporting directly to Adams.
Adams also tried to give his own brother, Bernard Adams, a $242,000 gig as the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of governmental affairs, the New York Post revealed. City conflicts of interest prohibitions on nepotism forced Adams to significantly curtail his brother’s responsibilities and pay him only a nominal salary of $1 for overseeing his personal security.
Another of Adams’s longtime friends from the police department, Tim Pearson, was quietly handed a $242,000 role at the city’s Economic Development Corporation overseeing public safety and Covid-19 initiatives.
At the start of his tenure, Adams brought on the longtime counsel for the Brooklyn Democratic party, Frank Carone, as his chief of staff, and later gave a $190,000 job to the husband of the party chair, Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who had staunchly backed Adams’s mayoral candidacy.
The Adams administration has also brought on at least half a dozen former city council members who had endorsed his mayoral run – one of whom, the department of buildings commissioner, Eric Ulrich, recently resigned amid a federal investigation into alleged organized crime and illegal gambling, according to the New York Times.
When questioned about these and other hires, Adams has repeatedly maintained that he picks the best people for the job.
Adams’s years living at McKeever Place in Crown Heights got little scrutiny amid the wider questions that arose last year during his campaign for mayor about his real estate holdings and where he actually lives.
At the time that he was living at McKeever Place, Adams already owned a four-unit townhouse on Lafayette Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant and co-owned a co-op in Prospect Heights that he had bought years earlier with a woman he called a “good friend”.
During the campaign, Adams repeatedly insisted that he had turned over his 50% share of the co-op to his friend, Sylvia Cowan, back in 2007 – but he acknowledged after the election and this year on city financial disclosure forms that he indeed still co-owned the unit. He has said he wasn’t aware that Cowan didn’t finalize the transfer of shares.
In 2016, Adams bought a co-op in Fort Lee, New Jersey, with his current partner, Tracey Collins. At a later point, Cowan also bought a unit in that same building, one floor below Adams.
Adams responded to the questions raised about his residence by providing the media with a tour of the ground floor unit of his Bedford-Stuyvesant townhouse, which is where he and his campaign spokesperson said he has lived since 2017.
This story is posted in collaboration with The City