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Assembly lawyer to step down after mishandled sex-harass complaint

A top counsel to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) will step down after the aide, Bill Collins, did not inform Silver he had failed to advance for investigation sexual harassment claims years ago about another Democrat, officials said late Tuesday.

Collins, counsel to the Assembly majority, is leaving his post, said Silver spokesman Michael Whyland. Collins was notified about potential harassment claims by staffers of Assemb. Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) in 2009 but didn't advance the complaints to the chamber's ethics committee, as required by a Silver policy, according to The New York Times, which first reported the allegations. The alleged harassment involved suggestive and flirtatious comments.

Silver has been under fire for the past year after he himself admitted mishandling sexual harassment complaints against ex-Assemb. Vito Lopez, who resigned in the wake of a scandal earlier this year. Silver approved a confidential agreement to settle complaints about Lopez - using $103,000 in taxpayers' money - instead of forwarding the complaints to the ethics committee.

 Whyland confirmed Collins' pending departure and said Silver didn't learn about the complaints against Kellner until last month. Whyland issued the following statement:

 "Speaker Silver was not informed by Bill Collins about this matter at the time and he feels the matter should have been handled differently.

"It was first brought to the Speaker's attention on June 7 of this year by Assemblymember (Deborah) Glick, after which the Speaker immediately referred it to the Assembly Ethics Committee for a full and independent review. Pursuant to the reforms to the Assembly ethics process announced by the Speaker in May, all sexual harassment complaints against members, including this issue, will be handled solely by independent counsel working at the direction of the bipartisan Ethics Committee, and neither the Speaker nor Assembly central staff will have any role in any investigations.

"The Speaker has had a conversation with Mr. Collins and he will be leaving the Assembly's employ."

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