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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Silver: Lopez not a distraction

   Amid Republican calls to resign in light of his handling of a sexual harassment scandal, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the issue hasn’t been a distraction at the Democratic National Convention.

   The scandal centers on complaints against Assemb. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn), who was censured by an Assembly committee for trying to force contact with young female staffers. It also involves Silver’s (D-Manhattan) handling of a previous complaint against Lopez that resulted in a $135,000 settlement – with taxpayers covering $103,000 of that.

   Asked if it was a distraction at the convention in Charlotte, N.C., Silver said: “I don’t think it should. …This is about one isolated individual. It is not systemic.”

  Silver and numerous other lawmakers have called on Lopez to resign – he has declined.

  Now, some Republicans have said Silver should step down because he approved the secret settlement payment. The latest: Joe Carvin, the Rye town supervisor and GOP challenger to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester).

  Silver has said he will explore whether the Assembly can force Lopez out. In 2010, the Senate expelled Hiram Monserrate – after he was convicted of misdemeanor assault. Lopez hasn’t been charged criminally, though a special prosecutor is investigating.

  “If there was a criminal charge, a criminal conviction,” Silver said, “that would be a different set of circumstances.”

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