Senate Candidate/Former Assembly Staffer: "Nobody Listens" To Complaints Of Sexual Harassment In Silver's "Boys Club"
New York Post scribe Fred Dicker supposedly is the "dean of the Albany press corp." When he's not puckering up to the rump of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Dicker is pegged with the task of weeding out scandals and corruption at the highest levels of state government.
That said, you'd think that if a former Assembly staffer went to him with a story about how she repeatedly was sexually harassed by her superiors, an old "pro" like Dicker would at least check it out, right?
Wrong -- according to Monica Arias Miranda, a Democratic state Senate candidate who used to work as a budget analyst for the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, anyway (Dicker denies the claim and Miranda has provided us with nothing other than her word to corroborate her story. More on that below).
However, she tells the Voice, now that shamed Assemblyman Vito Lopez has brought sexual harassment within the state Legislature to the forefront of public interest, Dicker -- like the rest of the establishment -- has begun to take notice.
Miranda currently is running for state Senate in a newly created district near Albany. During her time at the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, she claims she was sexually harassed by her boss, Deputy Director of Budget Studies Victor Franco, repeatedly over the course of several years.
Further reading on Lopez's pervy-ness:
Miranda tells the Voice that Franco -- amongst other things -- had demeaning nicknames for many of his staffers; she was "Princess Leia," she says.
"This wasn't my first job," she says. "I know what it's like to work in normal conditions. These were not normal conditions -- it was uncomfortable."
Miranda says she repeatedly filed complaints with the Assembly's human resources department -- starting in January of 2008 -- but was repeatedly ignored.
See one such complaint below.
At one point, the Assembly's HR director responded to the email, asking how things were going since Miranda had filed her initial complaint. She responded by saying "things have gotten much worse since I decided to come speak with you and legal counsel."
Again, Miranda says, she was ignored by HR.
The budget committee for which Miranda worked oversaw legislative member items -- the "pork" projects lawmakers rely on to appease their constituents. In other words, its director -- and assistant director -- are pretty powerful people because they have a say in what member items get approved, so Assembly members do their best to stay on their good side.
Miranda believes her claims against her powerful boss were ignored because he has friends in high places who swept her complaints under the rug -- much like Speaker Sheldon Silver did for Lopez and his former adviser J. Michael Boxley.
"There are favors, loyalty and all this other stuff that takes place [in the Assembly]," Miranda says, "It's an old boys club that I wasn't a member of. So I was ignored."
Miranda insists that her decision to come forward about the alleged harassment is not politically motivated -- because of the publicity from the Lopez scandal, "this is the only time someone might listen to me," she says.
We called Franco's office to get his side of the story but were immediately transferred to Silver's press office, where we were told someone would get back to us. As of this writing, nobody's gotten back to us.
Dicker, as we mentioned, denies that Miranda ever came to him with the story, telling us in an email that the claim is "totally false. She never came to me. She made the claim yesterday at her press conference and I told her I had no knowledge of such a claim. Ask her to prove it."
Miranda has not responded to our request for proof that Dicker ignored her story. We'll let you know if she gets back to us.
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