Earlier today I was interviewed by CBS New York reporter Tony Aiello about the Vito Lopez sex harassment scandal swirling around Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. When the video becomes available, I’ll post it.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly says he did not cover up a sex harassment case. After a week of silence, Sheldon Silver spoke out Tuesday. This as a state ethics watchdog appears to be starting up an investigation.
On Tuesday up in Albany there was a rare special meeting of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, known as “JCOPE.” Cameras were kicked out as the ethics panel went into executive session. It’s widely assumed JCOPE is investigating alleged sex harassment by Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and, perhaps, Speaker Silver’s approval of a six-figure secret payout to Lopez’s accusers, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.
At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Silver told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer the case was mishandled, not covered-up.
“[It’s] a mistake that won’t happen again. Clearly it was wrong of us to do what we did and go along with the confidentiality,” Speaker Silver said.
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin said he doesn’t believe Silver would try to protect Lopez, who Benjamin sees as a throwback to a different era of how men treated women.
“I think Shelly’s weathered the storm. I don’t believe he’s done anything illegal or unethical,” Benjamin said. “It’s an outdated culture. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now.”
As for Silver, some recall an earlier scandal, when a top silver aide, Michael Boxley, sexually assaulted a young woman. The victim collected $500,000 after settling a lawsuit that claimed Silver mishandled an earlier complaint about Boxley, and tolerated a culture of sex harassment.
“It was shocking and incredibly disappointing to be here more than a decade later and think, my goodness, did he not learn anything from that incident in his own office?” said Sonia Ossorio, Executive Director of the National Organization of Women-NYC.
As JCOPE opens an investigation, Silver is promising full cooperation.
Lawmaker support for Silver has been strong, but on Tuesday a Democrat running for an upstate Assembly seat said he does not believe silver should be re-elected as speaker.
Speaker Sheldon Silver: Sex Harassment Case Mishandled, Not Covered-Up « CBS New York.
UPDATE: Video available http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/09/04/speaker-silver-sex-harassment-case-mishandled-not-covered-up/