Governor Andrew Cuomo, as he is often wont to do when thorny issues plague Albany, went on New York Post columnist Fred Dicker’s radio show this morning, where he spent a decent amount of time defending Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. Mr. Silver, of course, is currently in hot water for authorizing a confidential settlement that shelved sexual harassment claims against his powerful colleague Vito Lopez, only to see credible sexual harassment allegations later emerge to create much controversy around the initial deal. On Mr. Dicker’s show, Mr. Cuomo took umbrage with the use of the phrase “secret deal” to describe Mr. Silver’s move.
“Let the process run, I understand the appetite to further the story, but let the process run and let the facts come out,” he said, switching to a slow, mocking voice to describe newspaper headlines. “‘Secret Deal’ was the initial headline. ‘Sheldon Silver signs secret deal.’ Poetic, beautiful. Yeah, except it wasn’t true and it wasn’t accurate and it wasn’t right. It wasn’t a ‘secret deal.’”
Mr. Dicker pointed out that the public wasn’t aware of the deal, which certainly made it more secret than perhaps other government expenditures.
“Well, it had a confidentiality, but it wasn’t a secret deal done by the Speaker. It wasn’t,” Mr. Cuomo responded. “It was a deal and an agreement that we now find out, which anyone would have asked us is the first question, frankly: Did the Comptroller authorize it? Because how does a Speaker make a payment anyway without it going through the Comptroller? Did the Attorney General’s Office review it?”
Indeed, both Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s offices had been involved in the process, though the elected officials themselves are arguing they had little to do with it. Mr. Schneiderman’s office, for example, has said that they only provided template settlement language and without any confidential provisions.
After Mr. Dicker repeated that the settlement was pretty much a “secret,” Mr. Cuomo asked, “Was it a secret?”
“It was in writing, the settlement itself said it will remain confidential,” Mr. Dicker explained.
“My point was that in some ways, it was even worse, it was not a secret deal done by Sheldon Silver, which people would think was just Sheldon Silver signs a secret deal,” Mr. Cuomo countered. “It was a secret deal reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office and implemented by the Comptroller’s Office.”
The host pointed out that now Mr. Cuomo was using the phrase “secret deal” that he was deriding just moments ago.
“Yes, it was an agreement with a confidentiality,” the governor contended. “But it was not a deal that was done outside of the checks and balances of government.”
While the newspaper editorial boards and segments of the public may be casting Mr. Silver as being at fault for Mr. Lopez’s settlement, it seems Mr. Cuomo is going to have his back. Given Mr. Cuomo’s ability to bend Albany towards his desired outcome, this is certainly good news for Mr. Silver, and possibly less-than-great news for Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. DiNapoli.