Charges Against Silver Cause Concern that City Could Lose Out During Budget Talks
A day after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on corruption charges, there are rumblings of an internal Democratic coup by fellow lawmakers, while other members are weighing in on Silver's ability to advocate for New York City during budget talks should he remain in the post as speaker. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
In a little more than two months, the state budget is due. The details of the state's spending priorities get hashed out behind closed doors among the state's leaders, but with charges pending against Speaker Sheldon Silver, there is concern that the city could lose out.
"The speaker has been a champion of New York City and has been a champion of a lot of the progressive causes, and his hand has been weakened as a result of these charges," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union.
The day Silver was arrested, Assembly Democrats announced their support for him to remain as speaker. But not every member of the Democratic conference attended that press conference, and sources say discussions are taking place privately about a possible replacement.
However, others have questioned how strong the charges even are. The allegations include that the speaker illegally pocketed fees for referrals to a law firm.
"It's absolutely common," said Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell of Manhattan. "So I don't know what that is. So when people refer work to somebody else, sometimes, they give a part of the fee to the lawyer who referred them."
According the U.S. attorney, the culture of secret meetings in Albany to decide almost everything, including budget priorities, is what allowed corruption to flourish. Critics have said for some time that Silver takes secretiveness and backroom deal-making to a different level.
"I think it's part of the way he runs this chamber, which is the reason why he has to go in the first place," said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, whose district covers parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. "Often times, we see him here and it looks like he's running this chamber like a small dictatorship."
"Everything that happens in Albany happens behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny, and this is what has contributed to this culture of corruption, because so little is disclosed," Dadey said.
Critics say the culture of corruption is so pervasive that it would take a seismic shift like these charges against the speaker to affect any kind of meaningful change where leaders are forced to step down rather than doing so voluntarily.