Ding Dong, he’s not Dead Yet

Local officials and candidates call for investigation of Silver’s actions in Vito Lopez sexual harassment case; many call for his resignation

The fallout over revelations that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver directed over $100,000 of taxpayer money to two Assembly staffers who accused Assemblyman Vito Lopez of sexually harassing them, continues.

Many Republicans have already called for Silver’s resignation, with most other officials saying they support a full investigation into the situation. Calls for the resignation of Lopez have also been on the rise.

State Senator and fellow Democrat David Carlucci said, “Like every New Yorker, I am shocked and outraged at Albany’s latest scandal in which taxpayer dollars were used to cover up sexual misconduct behind closed doors. The actions themselves if true are disgusting, and the cover-up is equally disturbing. I echo the governor’s call for a full investigation of the facts surrounding the case and will demand that any legal wrongdoing be prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law.”
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who is part of Silver’s conference, took a more measured tone. He said, “The events over the past few weeks surrounding sexual harassment claims are extremely concerning. I welcome a thorough investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the assigned special prosecutor.”

Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt blasted Silver, stating, “I find it disgraceful and unfathomable that taxpayer money was used to pay off victims of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct committed by Assemblyman Vito Lopez, criminals conduct committed by yet another elected official.” She demanded a thorough investigation of the case by the ethics committee and appropriate penalties.

Silver and Lopez have showed no sign of stepping down. In fact, Silver has taken an active role in this week’s Democratic National Convention. He said the settlement was kept secret at the request of the aggrieved parties, but now admits he made a mistake.

Lopez, who is up for reelection like all other Assembly members, denies the allegations. He said in a press statement, “Outside individuals and interest groups have asked me to resign. I believe the people should decide who should represent them. I will not capitulate to those self-serving tactics and demands.”

Assembly candidates for office have also jumped on the case. Republican candidate for the 99th District Colin Schmitt said,”The Speaker must resign and a full investigation must be carried out. The public must hold accountable any Democratic candidate who will stand shoulder to shoulder with Silver, accept campaign funding from him or related entities, and support him for Speaker if he refuses to resign.”

Democratic candidate for the same district, James Skoufis, said, “What concerns me most is using victims as props for political gain. The danger is it could deter victims of sexual harassment from coming forward in the future. We owe them more than that. We must do all we can to ensure that employees who have been sexually harassed don’t feel threatened when bringing these acts to light. We need to create an environment where it is safe for victims to come forward.

“Based on the allegations, Assemblyman Vito Lopez ought to resign, effective immediately. Likewise, I fully support the Joint Commission on Public Ethics thoroughly investigating the Assembly’s response and settlement. It is the process that will sort the accusations and allegations, determining the facts. Until those facts are detailed and presented publicly, our priority ought to be ensuring that the women who bravely stepped forward are respected and not further exploited by politicians looking to score campaign points.”

Republican Assembly candidate for the 99th District, Mark Levy, said,”I agree with Assembly candidates Jennifer Whalen (R) of AD 110 and Frank Commisso Jr. (D) of AD 109 that Sheldon Silver has failed female employees in this state by his handling of the charges against Assemblyperson Vito Lopez. If elected – I will work with like-minded individuals of all parties to remove Sheldon Silver from his speaker role in 2013.”

And fellow GOP candidate Kyle Roddey said, “Silver’s actions are reprehensible and there should be an immediate investigation into his conduct. Those involved should resign. Criminal charges should be used if necessary. This blatant misuse of public funds shows that there is substantially more that needs to be done to clean up Albany. This underscores the need for real meaningful ethics reform.”

Word is that Silver has been looking forward to retirement, anyway. Whether this scandal will end his long reign as speaker immediately or expedite his retirement remains to be seen.

As for who would take his place, that is another question. Rockland Business Association CEO and President Al Samuels, knows who he’d like to see as speaker. “I’ve already been rooting for Joe Morelle to succeed him,” Samuels said. Morelle is known as a business-friendly Democrat.