News & Politics

Defying Silver: Assembly Wannabe Frank Commisso’s Cojones Could Spell Political Suicide

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Frank Commisso Jr. currently serves on the Albany Common Council representing the city’s 15th Ward. He’s also running for Assembly as a Democrat — and may have just committed political suicide.

Enter Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful politicians in New York, who currently is catching some of the shrapnel from the Vito Lopez sex scandal — as we’ve chronicled, Silver swept allegations of sexual misconduct by Lopez under the rug by paying off two alleged victims with more than $130,000 in taxpayer money, which Commisso finds to be about as appalling as we do.

So, the wannabe lawmaker announced today that if he’s elected to the Assembly, he will not support Silver for another term as speaker — which makes him the only Democrat to even acknowledge that his party’s uber-powerful leader handles sex abuse cases about as well as the Catholic Church.

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

“This has been a stain on the State Legislature and Speaker Silver’s
direct involvement would cause any responsible Assembly member or
candidate to question whether or not he should continue in his
leadership role as Speaker,” Commisso Jr. said in a statement issued this morning. “Contrary to the spirit
of the Assembly’s own policies, Speaker Silver’s regrettable actions
clearly indicate a lack of sensitivity to the victimization of a number
of women employed by the Assembly. That is why in 2013 I will not
support Sheldon Silver for another term as Assembly Speaker.”

As Commisso points out, Lopez’s pervy-ness isn’t the first time Silver’s
covered up allegations of sexual abuse to get his buddies out of
trouble.

In 2001, a young female staffer accused the speaker’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 (with a little help
from 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.”

In both Lopez’s and Boxley’s cases, it seems the second wave of
attacks could have potentially been avoided if the two men didn’t think
they had Silver in their pockets to sweep the matters under the rug.

Silver, as we mentioned, is one of the most powerful politicians in
New York, and arguably is the most powerful Democrat (with the
exception, maybe, of Governor Andrew Cuomo). Crossing him has proven to be a bad idea — take the case of former Assemblyman Mike Bragman, for example.

In 2000, Bragman attempted a coup to remove Silver as speaker. It failed — and Silver stripped him of privileges, staff, and assigned him an office “the size of a broom closet.” Bragman and his supporters were then muscled out of office by primary challengers backed by Silver.

Regardless, Commisso’s taking on Silver is ballsy — unfortunately, it’s also pretty damn stupid for a wet-behind-the-ears wannabe Democratic assemblyman.

See Commisso’s full statement below.

State Assembly candidate Frank Commisso Jr. today
announced that he will not support Sheldon Silver for another term as
Speaker. Commisso Jr.’s statement comes in the wake of a sexual
harassment scandal in which multiple women have alleged Brooklyn
Assemblyman Vito Lopez sexually harassed them. Speaker Silver admitted
to paying $103,000 in taxpayer money to the victims in order to curtail a
potential lawsuit.

“As Democrats, we are proud to say that we support fair treatment for
women in the workplace. In the case of Assemblyman Lopez, political
expediency overruled simple fairness to female employees of the
Legislature. We have seen repeated examples of inappropriate response to
deeply troubling charges. I respect Speaker Silver’s accomplishments,
however in good conscience, I cannot support him. When the Assembly
Majority caucuses to choose a leader for the 2013 session, I will not
support Mr. Silver’s re-election as Speaker,” said Commisso Jr.

In 2001 and 2003 separate complaints were made by two women alleging
that Speaker Sheldon Silver’s then-Chief Counsel, J. Michael Boxley, had
sexually assaulted them. In 2004, one of the women commenced a civil
suit against the Speaker and the Assembly alleging that the “Assembly
and Silver failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent Boxley from
assaulting and sexually harassing employees.”

Mr. Boxley was arrested and pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct. Mr.
Silver and the Assembly leadership authorized the payment of a $500,000
settlement to one of the victims. The settlement was based partly on the
victim’s complaint that Speaker Silver tolerated a culture of sexual
harassment in the Assembly. Shortly thereafter the Assembly adopted an
amendment to the Rules of the Assembly (Powers and Duties of Speaker)
directing the Speaker to promulgate a non-fraternization policy to
protect interns from sexual harassment from Assembly Members and staff.
This policy was intended to complement the Speaker’s sexual harassment
policy.

Mr. Silver’s recent acknowledgment that he was again mistaken in the
Vito Lopez sexual harassment incidents shows a disturbing disregard for
the rights of female employees and the public trust. Mr. Silver not only
failed to refer sexual harassment claims by multiple female employees
to the Assembly Ethics Commission for a thorough investigation, he also
included a confidential agreement in the settlement documents in order
to conceal a taxpayer-funded settlement payment of $103,000 to two
victims.

“This has been a stain on the State Legislature and Speaker Silver’s
direct involvement would cause any responsible Assembly member or
candidate to question whether or not he should continue in his
leadership role as Speaker,” Commisso Jr. said. “Contrary to the spirit
of the Assembly’s own policies, Speaker Silver’s regrettable actions
clearly indicate a lack of sensitivity to the victimization of a number
of women employed by the Assembly. That is why in 2013 I will not
support Sheldon Silver for another term as Assembly Speaker.”

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