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Sheldon Silver faces more grilling on Vito Lopez case

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) in his office

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) in his office in the Capitol in Albany. (Jan. 24, 2012) Credit: Ted Phillips

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver faced more grilling Tuesday over his role in approving the confidential settlement in the Vito Lopez scandal, going back-and-forth over whether he was the target of investigators.

In February, it became clear that the state ethics panel had centered its investigation on Lopez -- who was accused of routinely groping and sexually harassing young female staffers -- and not Silver (D-Manhattan) for approving a secret settlement involving two initial complainants.

That's because, by law, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics must send notification letters to any subject being investigated for possible violation of the state's public officers law. While Lopez, the former powerful Brooklyn Democrat, received such a letter, his lawyer acknowledged, Silver did not.

JCOPE subsequently found that Lopez violated the law. After Silver threatened to launch expulsion proceedings last week, Lopez resigned.

Silver has been harshly criticized by watchdog groups and Republicans. On Monday, he apologized and announced new proposals for handling sexual harassment complaints.

Asked Tuesday if JCOPE investigated him for possible violations, Silver essentially said he was investigated but cleared.

"I spent two sessions, totaling somewhere between eight and 10 hours, being interviewed on this matter," Silver said. "Every member of my staff, members of the Assembly Ethics Committee, were interviewed by JCOPE. . . . I don't understand how anybody could conclude that there was no determination on that. It was very clear."

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