Assembly Speaker Under Fire For Lopez Actions
The leader of the State Assembly said Wednesday he welcomes an investigation into his role involving a settlement for sexual harassment against Vito Lopez. It's a scandal that is possibly drawing unwanted attention to Sheldon Silver's leadership. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
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The sexual harassment scandal surrounding assemblyman Vito Lopez has now embroiled the longtime leader of the State Assembly.
Sheldon Silver approved a $100,000 settlement payment related to sexual harassment allegations against Lopez. And he did so in secret.
Silver said it was because the settlement was confidential. But in a rare move on Tuesday, he also said it was wrong to not disclose it to the public.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for the state's ethics commission to investigate.
"I think we need a thorough investigation of the entire matter," Cuomo said.
On Wednesday, the National Organization for Women and the good government group Common Cause followed suit. It's a call some members of the commission are anticipating.
"What I am reading is allegations of hush money being paid, confidentiality being asked for as part of the payment, public money being paid for private conduct," said Ravi Batra of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. "As the governor said, until the facts come out, we don't know."
In a statement, Silver says he would "welcome" the investigation.
"Those facts will show that any decision by the Assembly to enter into any settlement agreement was both legal and ethical and made out of deference to the wishes of the complainants," Silver's statement read in part.
In his statement, Speaker Silver said the Assembly also requested it be released from previous confidentiality clauses, allowing the Assembly to release more information about previous settlements. That includes settlements involving Assemblyman Lopez.
Since the sexual harassment allegations emerged, Lopez has been stripped of his leadership role in the Assembly and said he won't seek re-election as Brooklyn Democratic leader.
With attention now on Silver's role, some of his colleagues are still showing support.
"Yes, I think that does not impede Shelly's ability to be an effective leader in the Assembly and again, I would like to think he did it to protect the institution, not so much to protect the member and his action," said Assemblyman Nelson Castro.
"Speaker Silver admitted what he did was wrong and that was the right thing to do," said Sen. Chuck Schumer.