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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Would Welcome Ethics Probe Into Payout Approval

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, talks with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver during a news conference in Albany on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. (credit: AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, talks with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver during a news conference in Albany on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. (credit: AP Photo/Mike Groll)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Wednesday he would welcome an ethics probe into his approval of a secret payout of tax money that was used to settle a sexual harassment case.

The headlines have been a horror show for Speaker Silver and Sen. Tony Avella told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello that the payout smacks of the Albany “old boys” network.

“This is obviously a huge mistake on Speaker Silver’s part to authorize what looks like a payoff,” Avella said.

The payout was approved to settle a harassment complaint against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and at least one female staffer received a check for $103,000 in state tax money.

Dick Dadey of the group Citizens Union called the payout shocking.

“I mean it’s shocking that the settlement was reached secretly and not revealed to the public until last night when the Speaker admitted he mishandled the way in which this was addressed,” Dadey said.

Speaker Silver apologized for the lack of transparency in his decision and took full responsibility for the mistake.
He added that he would welcome a full review by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new watchdog, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE.

“This will be the first real test for JCOPE,” Sen. Avella said, “If they really want to be a legitimate force in cleaning up Albany, this is a serious situation to be investigating.”

Speaker Silver had come under pressure from good government group Common Cause and the National Organization for Women, which demanded an investigation into his handling of the harassment charges.

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