New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: List of Alleged Improprieties Grows
Alleged actions led to a cloudy view of Shelly Silver's job in the Assembly
And now Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, has been named in a case involving an alleged rape of a woman who worked in the State Assembly:
SILVER 'RAPE' BLAME
By FREDRIC U. DICKER and KENNETH LOVETT (NY TIMES, June 10, 2004)
June 10, 2004 -- ALBANY - Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is personally to blame for the rape of a 22-year-old staffer last year by a top aide, a lawyer for the young woman charged yesterday.
"Sheldon Silver is responsible for allowing Michael Boxley to rape again and for fostering a workplace that has a systemic problem with how women are treated," said Manhattan lawyer Hillary Richard, who filed suit in Albany state Supreme Court on behalf of the victim.
"Here you have the one person who could have done something to prevent this rape. Not only did he have a responsibility, an obligation as an employer, as a supervisor as the speaker of the house, but how about as a human being?"
The suit was filed a year to the day of the alleged late-night Albany assault and seeks unspecified damages against Silver (D-Manhattan), the state's most powerful Democrat, his former chief counsel, Boxley, and from the Assembly itself.
Boxley, 44, was arrested in his Assembly office on rape charges one year ago after being accused of repeatedly raping the young woman - an employee of Assemblywoman Susan John (D-Rochester) whose name is being withheld by The Post - after a night of drinking two days earlier.
He never returned to his powerful job and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of sexual misconduct late last year in a deal with prosecutors.
The suit contends Silver had advance warning of Boxley's aggressive sexual behavior as early as 2001, when another young Assembly staffer, Elizabeth Crothers, charged in a complaint to Silver that Boxley had raped her.
Boxley's lawyer, E. Stewart Jones Jr., contended as he has before that the young woman "was a willing participant in every event that took place between she and Michael."
With Stefan C. Friedman in New York
New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
Albany's speed bump
by Richard Schwartz (Tuesday, May 25th, 2004)
The name is Silver. Sheldon Silver. And he likes his legislation neither shaken nor stirred.
Silver is, in fact, James Bond's opposite: a human speed bump. Bond, a man of action, lives a life of cars, casinos and willing women. Pretty nice.
Silver, a man of Albany, lives a life of rental cars procured at a suspicious legislative discount and casino suites that he accepts at Motel 6 rates. As for women, Silver coddled a chief counsel who ended up pleading guilty to sexual misconduct involving an unwilling Assembly aide.
Not exactly the stuff of movies - unless Michael Moore is the moviemaker.
While amusing on the surface, Silver's sordid exploits spell bad news for 20 million New Yorkers. As speaker of the Assembly, Silver is part of the triumvirate that rules the state, along with Gov. Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. His two governmental partners have their shortcomings but they can't hold a candle to Silver.
Want to lease a car in New York? Good luck. Silver is in bed with the trial lawyers, who love the current law that holds both drivers and auto producers (who still own the car when you lease) liable when there's an accident. No other state has such a statute.
Silver, by the way, collects a fat paycheck, which he won't disclose, from a personal injury law firm.
Want red light cameras installed at busy city intersections to keep the streets safe? Not in Silver's New York. How about reforming the state judiciary, which reeks of incompetence and corruption? Silver says
Forget election reform in a state that uses 50-year-old voting machines worthy of the Smithsonian.
As for budget reform, don't even ask. Silver revels in the fact that in his decade as speaker and his years prior as chairman of Ways & Means, the state budget has never been passed on time. "It's more important to pass a good budget than an on-time budget," he has often said.
A "good" budget? New York spends more money per person and gets less service in return than any other state.
Meanwhile, Silver rules the Assembly with the iron-fisted ruthlessness of Bond villain Dr. No. "The ability to speak out freely is squashed," said one Albany veteran. "And that's simply anti-democratic."
We deserve a trade-in on this lemon. But that's up to legislators. They attempted a coup in 2000 but the cagey speaker uncovered the plot and swatted down the mutiny.
This time they must not fail. Here are a few who would serve us better than Silver:
Catherine Nolan, a boisterous bulwark of middle-class values from Queens.
Scott Stringer, a creative representative from Manhattan's West Side.
Thomas DiNapoli, a moderate-minded Nassau County legislator.
Jeff Aubry, a rational rep from Queens who's leading the charge to reform the Rockefeller drug laws.
Steven Sanders, the respected education chairman from Manhattan who made mayoral control of public schools a reality.
Peter Rivera, a pragmatic thinker from the Bronx.
Time for Dr. No to go.
Despite Dysfunction in Albany, a Leader's Job Is Still Safe
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN and MICHAEL COOPER(NY TIMES, May 29, 2004)
One member of the State Assembly is being investigated for taking an intern to his motel room. Two lawmakers have pleaded guilty to crimes. Few laws are being passed, the budget is late for the 20th straight year and legislators are being accused of taking favors from big business. As if that were not enough, state lawmakers have not been paid since they missed the April 1 budget deadline.
It has been an especially bad year for Albany, as a convergence of institutional gridlock, a politically volatile court order requiring major changes in education spending and a series of scandals have left lawmakers' morality, as well as their professionalism, being questioned. But while those events have cast a pall over much of the capital, they seem to have caused particularly difficult times recently for Assembly Democrats and their leader, Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Mr. Silver, a reserved, inscrutable politician with a small inner circle and a tendency to rule by decree, has hung onto power longer than any other speaker in decades. As the lone Democrat among the three men who control state government, he unapologetically uses delay as a tactic to win concessions from the Republicans. That always leaves him open to criticism, but this year he finds himself under siege not only from the governor - whose attacks have become increasingly harsh - but from some members of his own party, who privately grumble that it may be time for him to go.
As the heat intensifies, though, even some of Mr. Silver's most strident critics say there is almost no chance he will be ousted any time soon. Not only is there no one waiting in the wings to take over, but there does not appear to be anyone with the stomach for such a fight, Democratic lawmakers and others say. If the Assembly's backbenchers are upset, they are also largely powerless. So Mr. Silver, who is most often blamed for the gridlock in Albany, is, in a beautiful example of that gridlock's reach, untouchable.
"My own view is that Shelly is the speaker because the members want him to be because they don't know that there is anyone else who could be the leader who does as well as him today," said Norman Adler, a lobbyist and former Assembly staff member, who added that Mr. Silver had been an effective leader for his members' interests.
Mr. Silver issued a strong defense of his leadership, and the Assembly Democrats, in an interview yesterday, saying that he always represented the interests of his conference. He laid the problems in Albany at the feet of Gov. George E. Pataki, whom he said was a lame duck who had disengaged in his third term.
Mr. Silver painted it as an act of conscience that the Democrats willingly put off the budget and their paychecks until they were satisfied that Governor Pataki and the Republicans who control the State Senate would agree to major increases in school spending to comply with the court order.
He pointed to public conference committees that have looked at the state's budget process, drug laws and voting systems this year as a sign that Albany was determined to confront gridlock and focus on substantive issues. And he said that while the recent scandals were dispiriting, they should not be used to tar the whole Assembly.
"They are frustrated, there's no question about it," Mr. Silver said of the Assembly Democrats. "They're frustrated because there are a few bad apples and they're being tainted in that regard. They're frustrated because they are not being paid. They have been determined to stand up for their position despite the fact that they haven't been getting a check every two weeks."
Mr. Silver's leadership might be at more risk had he not beat back a coup attempt in 2000. After Michael Bragman, then Assembly majority leader, failed to dethrone the speaker, Mr. Silver filled the most powerful Assembly posts with his loyalists.
"This would be the time one would expect a successful revolution," said a former longtime Democratic lawmaker with close ties to state government. "It is overdue, it should happen. Because the Bragman thing failed, maybe it set things back a few years."
Mr. Silver has also not been directly tainted by some of the more sordid events of late. It was, after all, a top Republican state senator, Guy J. Velella of the Bronx, who pleaded guilty to a bribery-related charge this month after getting fellow Republican senators to help him pay for his defense.
And some Democrats see in Mr. Silver a speaker who effectively stands up for their causes against a Republican governor and a Republican Senate majority. It has always fallen to him to put the brakes on Republican proposals his conference finds unacceptable, even if that leads to congestion and gridlock. But this year, many Democrats say, the tense and scandal-plagued atmosphere in Albany has prompted a renewed focus on Mr. Silver, fairly or not.
"Members get up here and we have nothing to do," said one Assembly Democrat who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The grumbling within the Democratic conference is quite a comedown from last year, when Mr. Silver got one of the biggest victories of his tenure, convincing the Senate Republicans to break with the governor and pass a budget with the Assembly.
But this year, lawmakers are feeling outmaneuvered by the governor and embarrassed by some of their colleagues. The feeling in the Assembly is that everyone has been tarred by the actions of a few, many Assembly Democrats said. "We are being tortured to death by drips," said Assemblyman Alexander B. Grannis of Manhattan.
Some members of the Assembly said that they had only themselves to blame. In the vacuum created by the lack of new laws getting passed, they said, the scandals of the current session have been amplified and become the news out of Albany.
There certainly have been a lot of Assembly members facing criminal proceedings. Assemblyman Roger L. Green, a Brooklyn Democrat, pleaded guilty to petty larceny for accepting state reimbursement for travel expenses he did not incur. Clarence Norman Jr., also of Brooklyn, was indicted last year on charges that as Brooklyn Democratic Party leader he tried to coerce judicial candidates into hiring consultants favored by the party. Adam Clayton Powell IV, a Democrat from East Harlem, is under investigation by the police upstate for taking a 19-year-old intern to his hotel room. And Assemblywoman Gloria Davis, a Bronx Democrat, resigned in 2003 after pleading guilty to bribery charges.
Mr. Silver is also feeling the reverberations from the loss of his chief aide and counsel, J. Michael Boxley, who pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct in 2003 for contact he had with a 22-year-old legislative aide. Not only was Mr. Silver criticized for not reacting strongly enough to an earlier complaint filed against Mr. Boxley, but he has never replaced him. This has amplified complaints that his small circle has grown smaller and forced him to work without a crucial adviser to help manage his conference and negotiate with the Republicans.
Some Assembly Democrats said that the scandals had thrown them off their game. After reports surfaced this spring that Mr. Silver had accepted a discounted suite in a Las Vegas hotel run by a company that wanted to run a casino in New York State, officials said, other business was set back a week when the speaker's office shifted into a defensive, damage-control posture.
The string of ethical and criminal issues hanging over the legislature come when the legislature and the governor are wrestling with one of the most politically sensitive issues in years: a court order to send a lot more money to New York City schools. While the state faces its own financial difficulties, lawmakers are trying to find a way to funnel millions, perhaps billions, of extra dollars to the city without taking aid away from any other districts. With the stakes so high, Mr. Silver has reverted to form, stalling negotiations, revealing little of his position and acting as the counterweight to Mr. Pataki and the Republican Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno of Rensselaer.
Should we count in the fact that Mr. Silver is refusing to let the public see the report on Assemblyman Richard Green's improprieties that was paid for by public money?
Release Green report
Armed with what must be a doozie of a report, the leadership of the Assembly gave Roger Green a choice: Resign or face stiff penalties for pleading guilty to stealing taxpayers' money. The Brooklyn assemblyman called it quits last week, but Speaker Sheldon Silver and Ethics Committee Chairman Mark Weprin refuse to release the committee's report. That's unacceptable.
Silver spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee explained the speaker's position: "The report was given to him in confidence by the committee, and he's going to respect that." What's missing from that nonanswer are some simple facts: The report was paid for by the people of New York, and the people of New York have every right to judge both Green's conduct and the Assembly's response to same. The Assembly's dodge that the public can make its judgments based on the criminal proceedings doesn't cut it.
Green has now embarked on a cockeyed quest for reelection and redemption. In his resignation letter to Silver, he said quitting will allow him to "reconnect with ... those core values that I have always upheld as a public servant." What "core values"? The Ethics Committee should enlighten the constituents who sent Green to Albany for the last 20 years as to whether its disgraced former colleague has any values at all.