The Democratic leader of the state Assembly said today he would welcome an independent investigation of a secret legal settlement reached by the chamber, issuing a statement saying such a probe would “allow all of the facts to come out.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, has come under significant criticism in recent days for his handing of a confidential settlement agreement in June, a few weeks before two employees lodged a formal sexual-harassment complaint against longtime Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn.
State records show a $103,080 payment to settle a legal claim was made in June, but all identifying information on the records has been redacted. High-profile attorney Gloria Allred has all but acknowledged representing a client on the other end of the private settlement, and has been critical of Silver for not referring the claim for an investigation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and several good-government groups have called on the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate the claims made against Lopez, as well as the circumstances surrounding the settlement.
Here’s Silver’s statement, issued a few minutes ago:
I would welcome a JCOPE investigation, as a JCOPE inquiry would supersede any confidentiality agreements that exist and allow all of the facts to come out. Those facts will show that any decision by the Assembly to enter into any settlement agreement was both legal and ethical and made out of deference to the wishes of the complainants. In addition the Assembly has written to counsel in any previous settlement asking for a release from any confidentiality clauses that may exist so that we can legally and properly release to the public all information relating to any settlement and how it was reached.