Over the past six months, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has really taken it on the chin in the PR department. And rightly so — it was recently revealed that he signed off on more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded hush money to help sweep allegations of sexual harassment against his former pal/alleged pervert Vito “Gropez” Lopez under the rug.
But covering up Assemblyman Gropez’s multiple cases of alleged pervy-ness is just the latest in a long history of Silver’s using his powerful position in New York State politics to help his pervy pals (ahem) get off.
In January, the Assembly will elect a new speaker — and if history tells us anything, Silver will once again get elected speaker. But not if Assemblyman Steve Katz gets his way.
Further reading on the Silver/Lopez scandal:
Katz has penned a letter to his Assembly colleagues urging them to grow a set and finally put an end to Silver’s reign over the Assembly. The Voice has been given a copy of the letter, which you can see below.
Katz is a Republican, so his opinion won’t carry much weight when it comes to choosing a speaker. And Democrats haven’t had much luck when it comes to ousting the powerful speaker. Just ask former Democratic Assemblyman Mike Bragman.
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.
Maybe Assembly Democrats will grow some post-election balls and give Silver the boot. But we’re not counting on it — after all, he’s still Shelly Silver.
See Katz’s letter below.
To My Colleagues in the Assembly:
I write to voice my concern regarding our impending vote for leadership in the Assembly. In light of the events that have been revealed over the last six months, I believe that it hurts our credibility as an honest governing body with any sense of morality and decency to even consider nominating Assemblyman Sheldon Silver for the position of Speaker.
Mr. Silver’s actions in covering the sexual improprieties of Assemblyman Vito Lopez with taxpayer dollars by means of the “Miscellaneous Contractual Services” account go against everything that we should be united against in a bipartisan manner. While we may disagree on how to govern, the people of the state of New York deserve to have an open, honest, and transparent government.
If Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is re-elected as Speaker, then we are not only showing New York, but the rest of the nation, that we have no backbone, no moral compass, and no integrity when it comes to honest government. If Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is re-elected as Speaker, we are confirming New York’s worst fears that its elected officials are above the law. I believe we are better than this.
At its core, this is a moral issue – not partisan. There is common ground for all of us to responsibly occupy. The Speaker’s action to cover up numerous sexual indiscretions not only embarrasses the state and our government, but each one of us, as well. We cannot be expected to govern effectively and with the confidence of our constituents if Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is allowed to retain his position. His use of a taxpayer funded discretionary account to affect any sort of “out of court settlement” is unconscionable, and this stain will mar every decision we make on behalf of our constituents for the next two years.
The citizens of New York deserve better from their public servants. And as public servants, we deserve better leadership, so that we can better represent our constituents.
Collectively, I believe we are above the actions of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver. I hope you will join me in electing a new Speaker so that we can turn the page on a sordid chapter in our state’s history and work on fixing New York.
Assemblyman Steve Katz (AD94)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 27, 2012