As news of a sexual-harassment settlement in the state Assembly continues to creep onto the campaign trail, Senate candidates George Latimer and Bob Cohen traded barbs today on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s role in the agreement.
The two candidates, unsurprisingly, don’t quite see eye to eye. Cohen has called for Silver’s ouster as speaker, while Latimer — a Democratic Assemblyman from Rye — says he will wait for the outcome of an ethics investigation.
Some background: Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, authorized a settlement in June over sexual harassment claims lodged against longtime Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn. The settlement included $103,080 in state funds, a confidentiality clause, and the claims were never referred to the Assembly Ethics Committee (though subsequent allegations were.)
“The Speaker admitted that he made a mistake in the way he handled the matter, and he apologized. (The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics) is investigating the matter, and we would be wise to comment after the result of that review,” Latimer said in a statement today. “The partisan outcry by Bob Cohen and the Campaign Chorus of Republicans fools nobody; they are not interested in the truth – they want to make political hay during campaign season.”
The campaign of Cohen, a Republican developer from New Rochelle, fired off two statements targeting Latimer’s position today, detailing Silver’s history with sexual-harassments (and abuse) claims and criticizing Latimer for not denouncing him.
“We just saw this type of tacit condonement of sexual assault at Penn State,” Cohen spokeswoman Jessica Proud said in a statement. “It cannot be allowed to continue in New York. Mr. Latimer must grow some guts and tell Shelly Silver to step aside.”
Both Cohen and Latimer have called on Lopez to resign. Lopez has forcefully denied any wrongdoing.
Republicans, meanwhile, have been aggressively trying to make Silver’s role a major campaign issue (as detailed in The New York Times today.) State GOP Chairman Ed Cox has repeatedly called for Silver’s ouster, while other down-ballot candidates have spoken out as well.