Mayor Eric Adams on Monday insisted he’s “very clear” about telling donors to “follow the rules” when giving to his campaigns for public office, after six contributors to his 2021 bid for mayor were indicted Friday for allegedly orchestrating a straw-donor scheme to funnel city matching funds above the legal limit to his campaign.
“I am very clear, the system that I put in place with my compliance attorney, with my team, we must stand up to scrutiny,” Adams said. “And whoever comes to me, all the time, when you look at the number of New Yorkers that have donated to our campaign, I’m very clear, you must follow the rules. And that hasn’t changed. My conversation is consistent. I can sleep well at night because I know that I’m consistent in what I say to people.”
Adams made the remarks in response to a question about fundraising discussion he may or may not have had with Dwayne Montgomery, one of the alleged ring-leaders of the scheme who he knew from when they served on the NYPD together, during an unrelated press conference on July 10.
Montgomery was named in the indictment — brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office — along with Shamsuddin Riza, Millicent Redick, Ronald Peek, Yahya Mushtan and Shahid Mushta. Also named in the indictment was one entity: EcoSafety Consultants Inc — a site safety management company owned by Yahya Mushtan and Shahid Mushta.
Prosecutors hit the six individuals with charges including conspiracy, attempted grand larceny, offering a false instrument for filing and attempted offering of a false instrument for filing. Montgomery, Riza, Redick and Shahid Mushtaq pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court Friday morning, while the other two will be arraigned at a later date.
Adams himself wasn’t named in the indictment and none of the six defendants worked for his campaign, according to Bragg’s office.
The defendants were alleged to have recruited and bundled contributions from straw donors — those who are reimbursed for donating to political campaigns in their own names to skirt legal contribution limits — to illegally extract more money out of the city’s matching funds program for Adams’ campaign.
The alleged conspirators’ goal was to boost Adams’ into the mayoralty and score lucrative city contracts for businesses they operate.
During the Monday press conference, the mayor acknowledged he knew Montgomery from their time serving as Black ranking members of the NYPD, but made clear his former colleague had not visited him in City Hall since he took office last year.
Adams did say he would see Montgomery at events, as he used to command the NYPD’s 28th Precinct in Harlem and is well known in the community there.
“We all knew each other … as a ranking member, you would know the other ranking members of color, there was not that many,” Adams said. “And no, he has never been here in City Hall to visit me at all. I will see Dwayne at events, you know, while I’m moving around. He was very well known in Harlem. He was the commanding officer of the 28th Precinct. He was very well known.”
But when pressed by a reporter if he ever saw Montgomery at an event at Gracie Mansion — the mayoral residence — Adams said he believes he spotted him in the crowd at a Black History Month event in February.
The mayor was also asked about a line in the indictment quoting a phone conversation between Montgomery and Riza, who were planning fundraisers together, where Montgomery said the mayor “doesn’t want to do anything if he doesn’t get” $25,000. That amount appeared to reference the minimum amount of money a fundraiser must bring in for Adams to show up in-person.
In response, the mayor said his campaign fundraising team determines the minimum amount an event has to bring in for him to stop by. A minimum amount of money is needed, he said, because time on the campaign trail is limited and candidates can’t afford to spend it at fundraisers that only raise a small sum of money.
“You can’t go to a coffee clutch and someone is raising you $125,” the mayor said. “You need to make sure you use your time appropriately. So my fundraising team sits down and decides ‘what are the ways we’re going to get Eric physically present off the campaign trail for two hours, what is it going to take us to do that?’ Because I’m not campaigning during that time on the campaign trail. So whatever the campaign team decided is what they decided. It’s not something that I decide.”