Democratic New York Mayoral candidate Eric Adams offered “evasive and, at times, dubious answers” to investigators looking into possible ethics violations related to the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens 11 years ago.
That’s according to transcripts of a deposition Adams gave in 2010 to lawyers working for then-New York Inspector General Joseph Fisch, obtained by The City this week.
Fisch was probing possible corruption in the bidding process for a license to operate slots at the Aqueduct, then known as South Ozone Park.
He later released a scathing report that showed Democrats had steered the lucrative, 30-year gaming contract towards the politically connected Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG).
Insider Info Leaked
Among AEG’s major investors were Nevada-based casino operator the Navegante Group and rapper Jay-Z. Former state representative and influential Queens megachurch pastor Floyd Flake was also a shareholder.
Then-governor David Paterson signed the contract over to AEG two days after Flake threatened to pull his support for Paterson in favor of Andrew Cuomo.
This was despite the AEG bid initially saying it would generate the least revenue for the state of all its competitors. AEG dramatically increased those estimates after it was given the opportunity to do so.
The state inspector general’s report found a “pattern of the Senate disclosing internal Senate information to AEG throughout the process, information which AEG could then use to its competitive advantage.”
It also found the Democratic Senate campaign committee had solicited donations from AEG, including Adams, although he was never accused of any crime. The report was referred to federal prosecutors, but no charges were ever brought.
But as chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing and Wagering, Adams was heavily involved in the selection process and had a lot of questions to answer.
Except, when asked, he said he couldn’t remember the answers, according to The City.
The transcripts of the IG’s Office interview, obtained via a public records request, reveal he was particularly sketchy about the events of his 49th birthday, on September 1, 2009. It also happened to be a political fundraising event at the Grand Havana Room, an exclusive private club on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
Representatives of AEG were there to write checks for $11,500 for Adams’ re-election campaign, and Adams thanked them publicly, according to witnesses. This was just weeks before the Aqueduct contract was awarded to AEG.
Adams: ‘Republican Hitjob’
But despite at times displaying an acute memory for details, Adams told investigators less than a year later he couldn’t recall whether anyone from AEG had been present that night or who had made donations to his cause.
According to The City, throughout the interview, Adams “made statements contradicted by emails and other records the inspector general collected as part of his investigation.” The New York-focused news site goes into greater detail here.
Adams’ opponent in the 2021 New York Mayoral Race, Andrew Yang, has dredged up past accusations of corruption, prompting a bad-tempered riposte from the Adams camp that dismissed the state inspector general’s report as a Republican hitjob.
I created a walled-off process and always held myself to the highest ethical standards—and there is zero evidence my decisions were based on anything other than what I believed was best for New Yorkers,” Adams said. “In fact, the process I created yielded millions-of-dollars a year for our schools and thousands of jobs for our state.
“It is absurd that I am still responding to a political hit piece created to discredit me a decade after the original false accusations were made — and unsubstantiated,” Adams added.
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