Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today called on embattled Assemblyman Vito Lopez to resign his seat amid allegations of sexual harassment and a secret state settlement earlier this year.
The Democratic speaker from Manhattan is expected to lead the New York delegation during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, but has been criticized for his role in the scandal.
Silver told a small group of reporters who waited for him outside an event at a kosher deli in Charlotte that he plans to still head the delegation this week.
“I spoke to Vito last Friday and I asked Vito to resign as a member of the Assembly. I felt what he did was wrong,” Silver said. “And I also felt that the sanctions that I had to impose on him would make him ineffective as a member, as a representative of his constituents, and I felt it would be best for him personally—and as a message for the institution of the Assembly—that he resign.”
The scandal involving the powerful Brooklyn assemblyman threatened to overshadow the state party’s message here in Charlotte. But Silver sought to beat back the criticism and said the Assembly made mistakes and wants to move forward without Lopez.
Silver said Lopez told him he has no plans to resign.
“His response was almost inaudible, but he clearly indicated to me that he was not going to resign at this time,” Silver said.
The Assembly censured Lopez last month after its ethics committee found “credible” evidence he sexually harassed two staffers.
State records last week showed a separate claim was settled by the Assembly in June, at a cost to taxpayers of $103,080. The case was not referred to the ethics committee and had been kept confidential.
Lopez has denied any wrongdoing, and Silver has apologized for agreeing to the confidentiality agreement and for not sending the case to the ethics committee.
But Silver also defended the settlement today, saying it was less than what lawyers for the female staffers had sought. Reports said lawyers, including high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, had initially sought $1.2 million.
“We saved the state money compared to the litigation costs and the ultimate determination in litigation of this particular case,” Silver said.