While the state GOP and some Assembly Republicans have called for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign over a secret sexual harassment settlement, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has refrained from joining in.
The Republican from Canandaigua said if members of the Assembly Republican conference want to call for Silver’s resignation, that’s their prerogative. He is waiting until investigations are complete before making any judgment.
“I’m going on my own personal reaction on this, and then if somebody wants to speak out and thinks the speaker should resign or there should be public outcry over it, they are entitled to their opinion,” Kolb said in an interview today with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “I don’t want them thinking in lockstep.”
Kolb heads the nearly 50-member Assembly Republican conference, and there are about 100 Assembly Democrats. Since become leader in 2009, Kolb has maintained a cordial relationship with Silver, the powerful speaker since 1994.
Silver has been criticized for quietly agreeing in June to pay $103,000 in state money to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed by two women against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn. Silver admits errors, but said the settlement was appropriate and legal.
Republicans have made Silver a campaign issue across the state. Assemblyman Steve Katz, R-Yorktown, has went so far as to compare Silver to Joe Paterno in the Penn State sex abuse scandal. The state GOP has a petition drive to oust Silver as speaker.
Kolb said his colleagues are free to do what they want. He said he doesn’t tell them how to vote when they are in Albany, either.
“I don’t tell my members how to vote, and I don’t tell them what they should do when it comes to making statements about whether it’s the speaker or anybody else,” Kolb said. “The thing I emphasize with every member since I’ve been leader, and it’s something I follow: The people you have to worry about are the people back home, so whatever you say, do, vote, you better do what you think your constituents that put you in office would want you to do.”