A former New York Assembly staffer who now is running for the state Senate says the multiple sexual harassment allegations made against shamed Assemblyman Vito Lopez — and the subsequent coverup by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — is just a “smokescreen and coverup for something much bigger.”
Democratic Senate hopeful Monica Arias Miranda claims she was sexually harassed routinely by male co-workers when she worked as a budget analyst for the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. She says she never filed complaints about the abuse because she feared retaliation from the “good ‘ol boy” culture in the Legislature.
Miranda, who faces two other Democrats in Thursday’s primary, has called for an investigation into Silver — a risky move for a Democrat, but one that is sure to set her apart from her opponents in her suburban Albany district.
“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 at a press conference yesterday.
Silver approved a payoff of more than $103,000 in taxpayer money to silence two of Lopez’s alleged victims.
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
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.
Despite the repeated allegations, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has said it has no plans to investigate Silver.
“I am demanding a full investigation by the state attorney general
and/or an independent body,” Miranda continued.
Assembly candidate Frank Commisso Jr. is the only other Democrat to publicly oppose the powerful speaker.
Again, Miranda never claimed she was sexually harassed by anyone — until she ran for Senate, that is.
Miranda did not immediately respond to our request for comment. We’ll let you know if she gets back to us.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 10, 2012