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:
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.