Facing growing calls for his resignation, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, surrounded by an army of loyal supporters, apologized for his handling of the Vito Lopez allegations and announced a series of reforms to ensure, he said, that such mistakes will never be made again.
“I want New Yorkers to know I care deeply about this institution and its employees, that I remain dedicated to our core commission of protecting those who are most in need of a strong and caring government,” Mr. Silver told reporters at a press conference in Albany hours after Mr. Lopez officially resigned.
To help prevent any future interference, Mr. Silver announced that, going forward, all sexual harassment complaints made against an elected official or staffer will be handled by independent investigator or counsel, who will neither be appointed nor serve at the will of the speaker.
Mr. Silver also moved to ban all confidential settlements by any government agency, including both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s office. And he announced that any member or supervisor who is informed about harassment by another employee will have a mandatory duty to report that harassment–or face immediate sanctions.
The speaker faced intense criticism for his handling of the complaints against Mr. Lopez. According to a pair of lurid reports released last week, Mr. Silver failed to refer complaints against Mr. Lopez to the Assembly’s ethics committee, and appeared more concerned about keeping the allegations from the public than making sure they were handled properly.
Mr. Silver again admitted Monday that he had made mistakes and said that his conduct “weighs heavily on me.”
“Mistakes were made. I greatly regret them,” he said, adding that he felt it was his responsibility to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
Still, Mr. Silver said that, despite a slew of editorials calling for his head, he has never considered stepping down.
“I did not give any thought to resigning,” he said.
He also insisted that, despite calls for a more thorough investigation into his handling of the matter, he sat for more than 10 hours with investigators, as did senior staff members.
“I want to be clear. There was a full investigation here,” he said, adding that he, too, was shocked by the reports’ findings.
“I had no independent knowledge of the extent to which these complaints were taking place,” he said. “I was horrified.”