On Wednesday, New York State assemblywoman Inez Barron, a Democrat from Brooklyn, joined the chorus of voices calling for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign over his handling of sexual harassment charges leveled against Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
Barron asked Silver to step down in a letter that was obtained and published in part by the New York Daily News. She is the second Democrat, and the first Democratic woman, to call for his resignation. (The first was Michael Kearns of Buffalo.)
"Your initial handling of the accusations against Mr. Vito Lopez demonstrate an unacceptable attempt to cover up the allegations of sexual harassment brought by two female employees," Barron told Silver in her letter.
Though Silver has admitted that he regrets how he handled the scandal, he has said that he has no plans to step down from his post as Speaker, which he has held since 1994.
A recap, for those who haven't been following the operatic sex scandal that's rocked the New York Assembly chamber for nearly a year: last August, a group of former female staffers of Vito Lopez's accused the Democratic Assemblyman of sexually harassing them in various ways. The charges prompted Lopez's fellow Democrats in the Assembly to call for him to step down -- but he didn't do so until May 20, after the rest of the Assembly threatened to expel him from their ranks.
Silver became embroiled in the scandal when the New York Times reported that he had helped coordinate payments of over $100,000, partially taxpayer money, in an effort to cover up looming accusations of sexual harassment against Lopez. The cover-up attempt did not succeed.)
Interest in Silver's possible complicity in Lopez's crimes also helped exhume similar charges that had been leveled against Silver in the past, intensifying scrutiny of the 69-year-old speaker, who's been in the New York State Assembly since 1976. There have even been rumors that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been plotting to remove Silver from office. But with Silver's own partymembers in the Assembly turning against their speaker, Cuomo may not have to lift a finger for that to happen.
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