ASSEMBLY SPEAKER IS OLD HAND AT COVERING UP SEXUAL HARASSMENT
When it comes to using taxpayer money to pay off the victims of sexual harassment to protect powerful political figures and keeping it a secret from the public, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is a serial offender and for that reason, it is time for him to go.
Generally missing from the early coverage of the most recent scandal in which 71-year-old Brooklyn Assemblymen Vito Lopez was accused of touching and harassing two girls young enough to be his grandchildren is the fact that Silver has used Assembly funds to cover up sexual harassment of Assembly employees in the past.
This back-room deal was approved by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Now, two more women have come forward with sexual harassment claims against Lopez.
Andrea Peyser of the NY Post reports:
In 2001, Elizabeth Crothers accused Silver aide Michael Boxley of rape. But instead of complaining to cops, she was persuaded to go to the Assembly. There, she was treated with disdain and doubt by Silver. She finally accepted cash to make the claims go away — a decision Crothers regrets to this day….
Two years after L’affair Boxley, a 22-year-old intern accused him of drugging and raping her. (Boxley was allowed to plead to a lesser charge of sexual misconduct, and spent not a day in jail.)
In the second case, Silver authorized the payment of $500,000 to the “Jane Doe” that Boxley assaulted.
In the most recent scandal involving Lopez, Silver covered up the incident by paying off the accusers to the sum of $103,000.
For years sexual harassment and abuse of women has been happening in Albany by our career politicians and nothing has been done about it. Silver has resided over these sexual predators since 1994 and has contributed to the level of abuse by turning a blind eye to the incidents or straight up covering them up with monetary payouts.
It appeared recently that Silver would get away with it again aided by the silence of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York State Controller Thomas DiNapoli both of whom approved Silver’s payment to the victims of Assembly “Gropez” but neither of whom urged the powerful Assembly Speaker to make the payment public. Nor did the Attorney General or the Comptroller make this secret back-room payoff public themselves. Shame!
Until recently, it appeared that Silver would get away with it again. After Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles J. Hynes, recused himself from the Lopez Case based on his long political association with Lopez, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts, Fern A. Fisher, granted a request by a Staten Island Attorney by Daniel M. Donovan to whom she assigned the Lopez Case to broaden his inquiry to include the actions of Assembly Speaker Silver.
Giving pause however, is the decision by District Attorney Donovan to include Albany District Attorney David Soares in his probe. Soares has huge experience in coverups, having attempted to white wash Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Dirty Tricks Campaign to use state resources including the State Police in a bid to discredit his political opponents. It was only after Spitzer was exposed as a habitual user of prostitutes that Soares reversed field and spit off the truth about the Spitzer coverup. Recently we learned that the 42-year-old Soares is dating a 26-year-old woman who works in his office.
Giving New Yorkers even less comfort are the actions of the newly formed New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) which sadly is a group of politicians appointed by politicians which opted early on to focus its investigation at Lopez and to exclude Silver from it’s probe.
The New York Times reported that:
At least two formal complaints have been filed with the ethics commission- one by Common Cause New York and the New York City Chapter of the National Organization of Woman, and the other by Citizen Union. Both complaints asked for a review of Mr. Lopez’s conduct and an inquiry into the broader question of how Mr. Silver and the Assembly handled the settlement.
Fortunately, the JCOPE which is rife with both political hacks and leakers now says that their probe will be widened to include Silver. Governor Andrew Cuomo has been adamant about setting new standards for integrity in ethics in Albany. A majority of the Commission Members at JCOPE are Gubernatorial Appointees. Whether or not the Commission steps up to their responsibility and takes punitive steps against Silver remains to be seen.
The “old-boy” network in Albany cannot continue to shield Sheldon Silver from Justice. He has been abetting sexual harassment of women in Albany for 20 years. The acquiescence and silence of both Schneiderman and DiNapoli proves that both public officials are putting party and the status quo in Albany ahead of justice and the public’s right to know.
There is no doubt that it is time for Assemblyman Vito Lopez to resign. Unfortunately, it is time for Assembly Speaker for Sheldon Silver to resign with him.