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Ethics Panel Sends Lopez Report to Legislature; Silver Reportedly Cleared of Charges

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Speaker Silver at last weekend’s Firecracker Festival in Chinatown. Photo by Tim Schreier.

This week, there was some news on the ongoing investigation of the Vito Lopez sex harassment scandal and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s handling of the ordeal.  The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics referred its recommendations to two Legislative panels but did not reveal the substance of those recommendations.

Multiple news organizations reported that Silver will not face charges as a result of the investigation.  The longtime Lower East Side Assemblyman admitted making mistakes in dealing with the sensitive situation.  He came under fire for approving payments to two of Lopez’s accusers.  As the Times noted, “there was widespread doubt that the (ethics commission) would take any action against Mr. Silver, since his appointees to the commission’s board have effective veto power over its investigations.”

“As we have said throughout, we are confident that the commission found no legal or ethical violation by Speaker Silver or his staff and urge the Legislative Ethics Commission to release the report immediately,” Michael Whyland, Silver’s spokesman, told reporters.  A source cited by the Daily News indicated that the commission’s report would criticize Silver’s handling of the matter, even though charges are not expected.  A separate criminal investigation is ongoing.

This morning the Post, no fan of the Speaker, blasted the commission in an editorial:

…now the top ethical minds in the state have weighed in. It turns out that we just didn’t understand Albany rules — where sex crimes are bad, but not the use of taxpayer dollars to make them disappear.  No surprise there. JCOPE isn’t likely to lay charges at Shelly’s feet when the man’s own appointees on the commission have veto power over all its decisions.  Still, Albany remains a cesspit. So in line with the new ethical logic, we’ve come up with a way to play by Albany rules while still doing right by New Yorkers.  It’s called bringing Shelly into the light.  Here’s the deal: Silver gets a $5 million fund every year to make settlements in cases against his members. The catch is that he has to write his hush-money fund into the state budget — putting his $5 million request before the people every year.  No more closed-door meetings, no more back-alley settlements.  Instead, Shelly gets what he wants — a criminal class in Albany that’s protected from prosecution — while New York gets to see what he means by ethics.  For that, $5 million would be a bargain.



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