ALBANY - New York's Democratic scandal, which includes lurid tales of a groping assemblyman and a secret settlement approved by the powerful Assembly speaker, is in the unlikely hands of a Republican prosecutor from Staten Island.
Still, District Attorney Dan Donovan is in a familiar role as special prosecutor. He is running the sexual harassment criminal investigation involving some of Albany's top Democrats and could touch on the attorney general -- a job he sought in an underdog bid in 2010.
He is investigating claims from July that powerful Brooklyn Assemb. Vito Lopez, 71, groped, kissed and made repeated inappropriate comments to young female staffers. Donovan also is empowered to probe a June settlement in which Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver used $103,000 in public money to secretly settle claims by two other staffers against Lopez.
The emails released to reporters show the attorney general and comptroller lawyers didn't approve the settlement in the emails, but neither did they object or question it. Schneiderman, who defeated Donovan in 2010, and DiNapoli are also Democrats.
Donovan was tapped to take the case after Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said he couldn't because of his political ties to Lopez.
Donovan has been here before. In 2011 as special prosecutor, he convicted a Democratic Brooklyn political leader who posed as an attorney to help a relative during a court hearing.
That same year, Donovan convicted Democratic state Sen. Kevin Parker of Brooklyn of a misdemeanor after a confrontation with a photographer.
"It was a smart move to bring in an outside, objective set of eyes to this (Lopez) investigation," said Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union good-government group. Dadey said the probe should include Silver's role.
"We aren't pointing any fingers. We just think there needs to be an outside prosecutor," Dadey said.