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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

At DNC, NY delegates ponder local scandal


The speeches were about the national election, but the buzz was about the scandal back home.

Several New York delegates to the Democratic National Convention took a "this-too-shall-pass" posture on the recent flap over sexual harassment cases involving Assemb. Vito Lopez that were confidentially settled.

Speakers at the delegates' first morning meeting Monday included union leaders, party officials and even Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. They focused mostly on working people, the party's goals, and President Barack Obama.

In the hallways and lobbies of the hotels where New Yorkers are staying, however, there arose a number of one-on-one conversations of a more domestic nature.

Delegates around the state, speaking under condition of anonymity, generally supported Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who arranged the controversial settlements, keeping his high-profile role here as a senior party figure.

To the politically oriented, no reminder was needed that as the longtime head of the lower house, he's one of two Democrats among Albany's all-powerful "three men in a room," the other one, of course, being Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

"Does this cast a pall over the delegation? No. Go have something to eat," said one well-known lawyer.

"I give Silver credit for coming here with that going on," said a longtime party operative.

"Even a veteran politician can commit an unforced error," said a municipal official.

"I think everyone's just excited to be here for the main event, the Obama nomination," said a third, an elected official, when the topic was broached.

Nobody was defending Lopez himself, who has already given up his role as Kings County Democratic chairman and now faces public pressure to quit the Assembly.

As much of the chat added up to "welcome Shelly" and "goodbye Vito," that various delegates Monday acknowledged some of the questions ahead.

Where might the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which has oversight over both executive and legislative branches and is run by former Cuomo aides, defer to investigations by prosecutors?

What will result from the appointment as special prosecutor of Daniel Donovan, the GOP Staten Island district attorney to whom Democratic Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes referred matters related to Lopez?

Who will replace Lopez as chairman of Brooklyn's borough-wide Democratic committee, which boasts that it is the biggest Democratic county organization in the United States? The inside track seems to belong to former Brooklyn Assemblyman Frank Seddio, a partner in the Lake Success law firm Abrams, Fensterman.

And approvals for the settlement contracts came from the offices of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Especially from the perch of a national convention in a southern city, the New York Democratic Party looks like a small world where one player's actions affect those of others.


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