Silver Hangs On as Probes Continue

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s approval of a secret $103,000 settlement to resolve a sexual harassment allegation against Assemblyman Vito Lopez isn’t dimming his chances of re-election or weakening his grasp on the Assembly.

Both Lopez and Silver are on the ballot next month. The different probes into the sexual harassment scandal and the outrage expressed over the scandal on op-ed pages or by good government groups doesn't appear to be having any impact on the prospects of either incumbent’s re-election.

As one voter in Silver’s district noted, the scandal could have been worse. "You know what I am happy. It was just a $100,000. It could have been worse," said Johnny Deluxe, a stay at home dad and stand-up comedian.

This November Silver faces 45-year-old Republican Wave Fay Chan, a graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology and a real estate agent. "When I tell people I am running against Sheldon Silver their mouth hits the floor and they say 'Oh my god, God bless you. Finally we have a different voice,’" Chan said.

But if money is any indication, Chan, who aligns himself with the Tea Party, has an uphill climb. He says he has $3,000 in his war chest. State records indicate Speaker Silver has more than $3 million.

The harder hurdle for Chan to overcome, however, may be Silver’s decades of service. Silver's been Speaker of the Assembly since 1994 and has represented the Lower Manhattan district, which includes Chinatown and the Lower Eastside, since 1976. Time has given him strong boosters in the community.  Supporters point to Silver’s work to limit the environmental impact from the re-construction of the World Trade Center and the re-building of Borough of Manhattan Community College's Fiterman Hall as tangible examples of his effectiveness.

Speaker Silver has conceded that he made an error in judgment in keeping secret the $100,000 payment to the two women who were allegedly harassed by Lopez.  Silver said his decision to keep the payment confidential was driven by his concern for the privacy of the female victims. When further allegations were made, he referred those cases to an Assembly panel.

But he has also tried to get in front of the scandal. He asked for the investigation by the state's new Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

But there have been calls for Silver to step down.

"Sheldon Silver has had a great career in the state but I do believe he is part of that old school mentality of what happens in Albany stays in Albany and it has got to change," State Senator Tony Avella said in a phone interview.

But Baruch College Political Science Professor Doug Muzio says that Silver's actions in the Lopez matter actually re-enforces the loyalty of his Assembly conference.

"That's his job. That's why he is Speaker. He protects his conference and he protects its members and his members elect him Speaker to do exactly that."


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Comments [3]

Christian from StPetersburg, NY

Wnyc's Bob Connelly's soft, mostly supportive essay on the Speaker's longevity in office, gave "Kanti" much reason to object and complain. Me too. It almost goes without saying NY state government is loaded with corruption.

Many still try to look the other way, and despite it's noticeable twists and turns- to escape Public Scrutiny -and all the subterfuge denying denying and denying the crookedness altogether....

Oct. 23 2012 04:44 PM

That's his job. That's why he is Speaker. He protects his conference and he protects its members and his members elect him Speaker to do exactly that."

You got to be kidding us. Where do you teach? In other words, professor, Sheldon can betray the public trust and the victims of sexual abuse, and that is just fine because he protects sleaze and that is why he is speaker?

Did we get that right?

Maybe he is over paid for that position; any street madam can do the same job, because all he is protecting members from is sex and corruption. Twice taxpayers money was paid to the tune of $500,000 to 700,000 including attorneys’ fees to cover up repeated sexual abuse and this the reason he is speaker?

In addition, in ten years under Silver's leadership ten assemblypersons have resigned for unethical issues or have been prosecuted and that too is a sign that something is terribly wrong in the Assembly. Where are we to look? Who should be held accountable? As the leader, the buck stops with Sheldon! Had Silver been a CEO of a major corporation he would have been fired.

I suppose our standards are too high.

Oct. 03 2012 03:38 AM
WhereAreTheWomen,Carolyn from East Side

This disgusting amoral old lizard makes me ashamed to be a Democrat. What's worse is the silence of our women leaders. Four women sexually assaulted, two more raped. There might be more. All on Silver's watch.
How can they let him off with "he admitted he made a mistake and he'll make changes going forward"? He's had 18 years and multiple assaults against women to make changes. He never did. He only says that now because he got caught. Christine Quinn, Deborah Glick, Carolyn Maloney all make apologies for him. Shame on them for putting their own self interest before vulnerable young women's futures.

Oct. 02 2012 09:16 PM

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