As the legislative session heads toward its final week, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been keeping a low profile, but Silver is now named in at least two lawsuits over his handling of the sexual harassment scandal involving former Assemblyman Vito Lopez. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is now facing another lawsuit, this time from a private citizen who wants the speaker to reimburse the state for the secret $103,000 payment he authorized last year to settle claims of sexual harassment against Vito Lopez.
"I think that lawsuit, the new private lawsuit, is of far less concern to the speaker than the lawsuits from the various victims," said Mark Peters, the former New York State top corruption prosecutor. "Suddenly, there's a new actor involved, namely, the court system. So that even if the members feel as though they've resolved this, you've now got a new actor, the court system, who gets to take a look at it and who doesn't have to listen to what the members want."
The Vito Lopez matter has now been investigated by the state ethics commission, as well as separately by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan. But both of those were limited in scope.
"Our report was really clear," Donovan said Tuesday. "We thought that the matter was mishandled by the legislators. We were very clear that we thought if the matter had been handled differently with the first two victims, we might not have had the second two victims."
This week, the state Senate voted overwhelmingly to limit leadership terms to 12 years, a measure some believe was aimed at Silver, who has been speaker for nearly two decades.
Silver hasn't commented on that or much of anything else this week, despite pressing legislative matters that demand his attention as the session draws to a close. On Monday, he said the media was being "unfair" to him regarding Lopez.
"I think he's just kind of like a drowning man flailing at anything. He's not used to being under siege," said Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor of Hopewell Junction. "Thirteen years ago, when there was a so-called coup attempt, the whole media landscape was different."
"I don't like to comment on my feelings about the news coverage about me, let alone the news coverage about anyone else," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Lawmakers say the moment for any kind of coup or rebellion against the speaker has passed, at least for now. The question is, if more information comes out as a result of any of these lawsuits, does that change the equation for Democratic members of the Assembly who have so far been very supportive of the speaker?