Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver To Be Investigated For Vito Lopez Coverup

Apparently realizing that "it's always about the coverup," the Joint Commission On Public Ethics (JCOPE) announced last night that it's widening its probe of the sexual harassment allegations made against shamed Assemblyman Vito Lopez to include the more than $100,000 in taxpayer money Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver approved to cover some of them up.

Previously, the commission said it would not be investigating the speaker, which drew criticism from members of Silver's own party.

Critics -- including the National Organization for Women -- have blasted Silver over the way he handled the allegations, suggesting that the payout was just the latest example of his sweeping allegations of sexual harassment in the Assembly under the rug. Democratic state Senate candidate Monica Arias Miranda  -- who claims she was constantly harassed while working as an Assembly staffer -- says Silver's Assembly is an "'ol boys club," where women are powerless against harassment from male co-workers.

"Why are elected officials calling for Mr. Lopez's resignation yet are not willing to say the same about the speaker, who is the one responsible for using $100,000 of tax-dollar money to hush the sexual harassment allegations," she said yesterday.

Further reading on Lopez's pervy-ness:

Vito Lopez In Sex And The Assembly: How To Sweep A Scandal Under The Rug

Ladies, Assemblyman Vito Lopez Would Prefer You Not Wear A Bra To Work

Vito Lopez's Pervy-ness Cost Taxpayers $103,000 -- Thanks To Shelly Silver

Gloria Allred, NOW Have Shelly Silver In Sights Over Hush Money

Here's The Letter Shelly Silver Sent Assemblyman Vito Lopez

Silver approved a payoff of more than $103,000 in taxpayer money to silence two of Lopez's alleged victims.

After Lopez's initial accusers were successfully paid off, Lopez allegedly sexually harassed at least two other young, female staffers in his office -- which makes sense considering Silver gave him the impression that he was free to feel up whomever he wants by paying off two of his accusers.

But that's just the latest example of Silver using his powerful position in state government to help out one of his buddies hit with sexual misconduct allegations -- in 2001, a young female staffer accused Silver's former chief counsel J. Michael Boxley of sexually assaulting her in his apartment. Rather than go to police, she opted to pursue the matter through the Assembly, which turned out to be a mistake.

The investigation into Boxley was soon closed (thanks to Silver), and he remained on Silver's staff as if nothing ever happened.

Two years later, Boxley pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct -- in a sweetheart deal that kept him out of jail -- for an attack on a different woman. Then, in 2006, Silver and the Assembly agreed to pay $500,000 to a Jane Doe because the speaker failed to properly investigate the initial accusations and for "tolerating a culture of sexual harassment in the Assembly."

Given the fact that both coverups led to further abuse, critics have compared Silver's actions (or inactions) to administrators at Penn State University, who hid allegations that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing dozens of young boys.

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