Says Assembly members support him
By Michael Gormley
ALBANY — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday his Democratic colleagues support him in the powerful post he's held since 1994, even as the chamber faces a lawsuit from Silver's handling of a sexual harassment scandal.
"Members have spoken to me," Silver said after emerging from closed door negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate leaders. "They have been supportive. They believe that members of the media are being rather unfair."
Monday's comments are the first from Silver since two women on the Assembly staff sued him, former Assemblyman Vito Lopez and the Assembly over the scandal last week.
Silver acknowledged last year that he crafted a $103,000 settlement using public money to end claims from two other women against Lopez. Silver said that was a mistake, made a remarkable public apology and is pushing for changes.
Lopez, a Brooklyn Democrat, has denied any wrongdoing and resigned his seat to run for New York City Council. He faces civil charges recommended by the state ethics board.
The New York Daily News in Monday's edition quoted unnamed Assembly members as saying prominent Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, a Democrat, said privately it was time for Silver to resign, a statement Wright denied.
Wright later issued a press statement saying that Silver has been a good speaker and other Assembly members must have misunderstood Wright. The Harlem Democrat also is co-chairman of the state Democratic Party and a longtime leader in the Assembly.
"Like so many members of the New York State Legislature, I am exceedingly frustrated with the mess that the appalling wrongdoing of Vito Lopez has created," Wright stated. "While I have indeed expressed my frustrations with this, (the Daily News') .... sources obviously took them for something that they simply are not. As the Daily News has previously reported, I have stated publicly and privately that I believe Shelly Silver has been a good speaker."
Silver wouldn't comment further on the case.
"The matter is in litigation, is being handled, it is being sent to the attorney general ... in the ordinary course of business," said Silver, who is also a lawyer.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, has decided not to handle the case. Top staffers reviewed Silver's settlement a year ago of claims against Lopez, but the staffers said Schneiderman was never told about it.
"Because the complaints cite a communication between an employee of this office and Assembly staff, we have declined to represent Assembly officials in the case," said Schneiderman spokesman Matt Mittenthal.