Speaker Sheldon Silver offers mea culpa as Assemblyman Lopez formally steps down

Posted at 11:23 PM, May 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-20 23:23:28-04

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, on the hot seat for his handling of sexual harassment incidents involving disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez, said he’s sorry tonight. He told a news conference, “I accept the criticism and deeply regret not referring the original complaint to the Assembly’s Ethics and Guidance Committee.”

There are calls for Silver to resign over his mishandling of charges of sexual harassment against Lopez.  He swept them under the rug, say his critics, and arranged for secret payoff deals to two of the women who originally filed complaints.  Lopez is accused of abusing at least 8 women, but two independent probes determined he did not violate any laws.  A special prosecutor found “alarming” actions by Lopez, but no crime. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox takes exception to the findings and is calling on Governor Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the case.  He also wants Silver to step down from his powerful leadership role.

All these developments as 71 year old Lopez caved into pressure to leave immediately.  He had hoped to stay until the end of the current legislative session June 20th, but the pressure for him to leave immediately was too intense.  He resigned as of 9 a.m. Monday morning, and his name plate was quickly removed from the Assembly chamber.  Governor Cuomo said he made the right move.

Lopez said he stepped down now “for the sake of my family and the sake of my own health.” And he noted, “I want to make it clear that this is not an admission of  wrongdoing on my part.”

In his apology, Silver said, “the degradation and emotional duress endured by the young women…who were harassed while they served in the Assembly, weighs heavilly on me.”

He said he was introducing a package of reforms that he hopes will prevent future episodes of sexual harassment in the legislature. He said, “I want New Yorkers to know that I care deeply about this institution and its employees, and that I remain dedicated to our core missionof protecting those who are most in need of a strong and caring government.”  Silver’s critics however feel he’s closing the barn door too late, and feel his past actions, or inactions warrant his removal of Assembly leader.