By Matthew Fischetti | [email protected]
The communications director for both the Brooklyn Democratic Party and party boss Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn has a third job – as a “director” in the New York office for the powerful lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs.
But ethics experts say the simultaneous holding of these positions could be a serious conflict of interest.
James Christopher has worked with Bichotte Hermelyn since August 2022 where he had held dual positions as director of communications for the county party and as Director of communications & chief communications officer for majority whip, according to his LinkedIn page.
Last month, Christopher announced that he was accepting the position at the company where Bichotte Hermelyn’s husband, Edu Hermelyn serves as a Senior Vice President, while concurrently holding his current positions.
“Marrying his business and political knowledge allows James to help clients navigate today’s complex legislative environment while cutting through the noise to captivate audiences,” a description of his position on Mercury’s website reads.
Rachel Fauss, Senior Policy Advisor for Reinvent Albany, a watchdog group that advocates for transparency in government, said that Christopher’s multiple jobs were potential conflicts of interest.
“This appears to be a trifecta of conflicts of interest; there is no way that it is in the public’s interest for a legislative staffer to be holding positions simultaneously in a top lobbying firm and with a county democratic party while also being on the public payroll,” Fauss said.
Due to Christopher’s Albany job, he would have needed to get permission from the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission in order to take the outside employment. The body can not directly comment on guidances issued due to laws surrounding the Legislative Ethics Commission.
When James Christopher was originally reached out to for comment for this story, he declined to comment.
Jon Reinish, a partner at Mercury Public Affairs, said in a later statement that “This individual is employed in a part-time communications capacity and not involved in providing any government relations services, as cleared by the Legislative Ethics Commission.”
Regardless of the Legislative Ethics Commission’s decision, Fauss said that the appointments still raise concern.
“If the Legislative Ethics Commission approved this arrangement, it proves that they are not independent and should be abolished,” said Fauss.