As has been noted in the pages of this newspaper and elsewhere, the New York State Assembly – overseen by Speaker Sheldon Silver – has been rife with charges of corruption in recent times. Over the past several months, more than one state legislator has been arrested over such accusations. Additionally, Silver’s own integrity has come into serious question in the wake of the scandal surrounding his crony, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who is now an ex-Assemblyman due to seemingly credible accusations that he persistently engaged in sexual harassment of his female aides. The Speaker has become implicated as a result of information that indicates he purposely turned a blind eye toward the disclosures of Lopez’ reckless and emotionally discomfiting behavior.
As particularly outlined by the Daily News, the New York State ethics commission unearthed evidence that showed how Silver covered up the accusations against Lopez. According to the commission’s report on its investigation into the scandal, e-mails between the attorney for two of the women lodging harassment complaints against Lopez and Silver’s attorney revealed that the Speaker’s office had been given total notice that the women were extremely upset by the Assembly’s failure to investigate their accounts of having been physically accosted and propositioned by Lopez. In one of those e-mails, their attorney stated that the women could not “imagine feeling safe or comfortable . . . working anywhere in the Assembly,” given their understanding that “Mr. Lopez is apparently quite close with Mr. Silver.” The bottom line is that it took a long time, repeated media disclosures – and Lopez’ ultimate resignation – before Shelly Silver acknowledged that there apparently had been some serious wrongdoing under his watch.
In another disturbing story reported just recently by the Daily News, former Assembly legislative aide Elizabeth Crothers claimed that Silver’s office sent her a threatening letter in 2003, two years after Crothers approached the Speaker to inform him that she had been raped by an Assembly lawyer. Crothers said the speaker nonchalantly ate snacks as the 24-year-old woman described her story to him, after which he issued a statement in support of the lawyer. When the lawyer was accused of another rape two years later, Crothers’ lawyer received a letter from Assembly attorney William Collins that appeared to threaten retaliation against her reputation in the press because of her continued efforts to speak out against the accused.
The collective sense of unease and downright foul play resulting from these scandals compels us to ask the question – haven’t we had enough? How many times does the public have to keep hearing about corrupt behavior emanating from the halls of the state Assembly – with virtually no serious response from Speaker Silver – before it becomes clear that the assembly chief is not capable of cleaning house? Based on all the evidence that has been brought forth over the past few years, the Jewish Voice has one simple question – is it finally time for Sheldon Silver to admit to his wanton carelessness in the face of rampant corruption, and resign from his long-held office?
We leave it to Mr. Silver to decide.