As part of the first day of the Democratic National Convention, the New York state delegation met for breakfast Monday, and some members commented on the controversy regarding the payment negotiated by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to settle sexual harassment claims against Vito Lopez. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he's sorry: The Assembly should have referred to its ethics committee charges from two employees that Vito Lopez was sexually inappropriate. And he should have let taxpayers know of a six-figure settlement he approved.
"I think what is important is we in the Assembly respect the dignity of our employees. We want to provide them w a respectful and professional atmosphere when they work," Silver said.
Four women have come forward; the case for two went to the ethics commission. Silver said staff informed him the others wanted their charges handled confidentiality.
"I was advised that people didn't want to participate in the ethics committee," Silver said.
But Gloria Allred, one of the victim's attorneys, said Silver had a legal obligation to immediately investigate the charges.
"The excuse that an employer is not doing an investigation in order to protect the privacy of an employee is ludicrous," Allred said.
Emails show aides to both state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli were aware of the settlement, though they've downplayed their roles.
"Our office has a very limited role in any kind of settlement discussion. Whether or not we should change that role is I think a broader discussion," DiNapoli said.
To Silver, talk of the scandal distracts the delegation from the task at hand: Re-electing President Obama. But he tried turning it to Democrats' advantage.
"I think the Republicans generally in their campaigning have campaigned for a war on women," Silver said.
Silver says he told Lopez to resign from the State Assembly, a plea he's rebuffed.
Meanwhile, a fight is under way to replace Lopez as Brooklyn's Democratic leader. As for Silver's leadership, his colleagues say they're comfortable with him in charge of the State Assembly.