Lopez Defies Sheldon Silver, Refuses to Step Down

Sheldon Silver is interviewed by reporters in Charlotte. Photo: Staten Island Advance/Tom Wrobleski.

As the Democratic National Convention moves into its third day in Charlotte, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver continues to face tough questions from reporters about his role in the sex harassment scandal enveloping Assemblyman Vito Lopez.  Silver sat down with Liz Benjamin of Capital Tonight for a wide-ranging discussion about the upcoming Presidential Election, as well as “Vitogate.”  No big headlines but Silver did brush off a not-very-veiled attack from the Lopez camp yesterday.

The Daily News reported:

Vito Lopez declared war Tuesday on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. A day after Silver called on the powerful Brooklyn party boss to resign amid a sexual harassment scandal, a defiant Lopez blasted out an all-caps statement trashing his detractors for “destroying my credibility and election options” and vowing not to be railroaded from office.  “I WILL NOT CAPITULATE TO THOSE SELF-SERVING TACTICS AND DEMANDS,” Lopez said in his statement without mentioning Silver by name…  The hot-tempered party boss is known for playing hardball, and he made it clear the game is on with Silver, his former ally. Operatives with ties to Lopez reminded reporters Tuesday that Lopez still has a strong following in certain segments of his 53rd Assembly District in Brooklyn — while threatening to go after Silver’s reputation. Lopez, who stands accused by his Assembly colleagues of sexual harassment and is the subject of a criminal probe, said he’s the victim of a political smear campaign that will not drive him from office.

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer put pressure on Speaker Silver to do everything in his power to expel Lopez from public office.  “I think he should resign today, and I’ve urged the speaker to see if there’s any legal way that the Assembly can remove him,” Schumer said.  “I think that there is so much evidence that he has done this multiple times that it’s not enough to say” ‘Oh, he’s not a committee chairman. Oh, he’s not head of the Democratic Party.’ He should be out of office. O-U-T! N-O-W!”
The state’s new ethics commission met in secret for two hours yesterday, presumably about the Lopez matter.  There’s little doubt that the panel is launching an investigation but commissioners said nothing following the meeting.  The Post reports the Joint Commission on Public Ethics did, in fact, vote to begin an inquiry, but the scope of the investigation is unknown:
It’s unclear if the JCOPE probe will include Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s actions, as well as those of the offices of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, both of which assisted with the tax-funded settlement with Lopez’s accusers.
Silver will speak for the New York delegation today when the formal roll call takes place, nominating Barack Obama for president.