Andrew Cuomo Knocks ‘Management by Committee’ Plan to Replace Sheldon Silver

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his fourth State of the State address on January 8, 2014 in Albany, New York. (Getty Images)
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his fourth State of the State address on January 8, 2014 in Albany, New York. (Getty Images) (Photo: Will Bredderman for Observer)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today he would not tell the Assembly how to run its business—but expressed little confidence in a plan for a committee of Assembly members to rule in place of Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is facing criminal corruption charges.

“I’m focused on the functionality of government, and I want to know what the mechanism is that will replace the speaker. As I’ve said all I know is what I’ve read, the quote-unquote committee—I don’t know what that means. I can’t negotiate with a committee,” Mr. Cuomo told the Observer today during a storm briefing at his Manhattan office.

Mr. Cuomo said he did not know much about the proposal, beyond what was written in the papers. It has been reported that Mr. Silver would step back from his duties as speaker—though would not resign the title—and would put five lawmakers in charge of running the Assembly in his stead, the Daily News reported. They would be Majority Leader Joseph Morelle of Rochester, Brooklyn Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, Manhattan Assemblyman Herman Farrell Jr., Queens Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie.

The arrangement was designed in part to remove the speaker, and the scandal surrounding him, from upcoming budget negotiations—but the governor’s remark that he cannot negotiate with a committee throws some cold water on that argument.

“I’m not going to tell them how to run the Assembly. To the extent I have to interact with the Assembly, committee, management by committee, I’ve never been a fan of and I’ve never seen it work well—so I’d like to see what the actual configuration is,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Mr. Silver has been charged by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara with masking millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks as income from two law firms, while essentially performing no work for the companies.

Despite the governor’s strong reservations about the plan in place to take over Mr. Silver’s duties—and his repeated urging that the scandal not get in the way of the functioning of government—Mr. Cuomo did not call for Mr. Silver to resign his post as speaker, as some, including speaker candidate Assembly Keith Wright, have begun to do this week. Still, he said a single person taking over for Mr. Silver would make his job a lot easier.

“It’s not really my place to tell them how to run their business. For my own selfish point of view, I don’t understand how you negotiate with a committee—how I negotiate with a committee,” he said again when asked if he would prefer a single person other being voted speaker in Mr. Silver’s wake.

In terms of the charges against Mr. Silver, Mr. Cuomo called it a “terribly unfortunate situation.”

“We’re trying to build trust in the system, and this is a negative that just brings up all the worst stereotypes of government,” he said.

And while the charges stem in part from evidence uncovered by the Moreland Commission—which Mr. Cuomo shuttered early, much to the chagrin of good government types and prompting an investigation from Mr. Bharara—the governor today said he had no regrets about ending the corruption-busting panel when he did.

“If anything, you look at the laws that we’ve actually passed over the years which have brought more disclosure than ever before and more disclosures for legislators of outside income—which is what this is really about,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I think that those laws actually were the genesis of bringing these issues to light.” Andrew Cuomo Knocks ‘Management by Committee’ Plan to Replace Sheldon Silver