Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday defended his tenure as one of the most powerful lawmakers in Albany, downplaying the latest corruption scandals and insisting there are “rotten apples” in any organization.
“In any group there are rotten apples. It’s unfortunate that it happened,” said Silver, referring to the federal bribery indictment filed last week against Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D-Bronx).
Silver, since 1994 the powerful Democratic speaker of the 150-member chamber, deflected responsibility for what US Attorney Preet Bharara called “rampant” corruption in New York government.
WHO ME? Sheldon Silver yesterday blames some “rotten apples.”
“I don’t feel any responsibility. I don’t interview people [when they run for office],” said Silver, who attended a ceremony celebrating the expansion of the Century 21 store in his downtown district.
Silver has come under fire the past year over his handling of sex- harassment allegations filed against Assemblyman and former Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez.
According to the New York Public Interest Research Group, 31 state office holders have been convicted of a crime, censured or accused of misconduct the past seven years — just a third of Silver’s tenure at the helm of the Assembly.
Among the rogues’ gallery is a bevy of Assembly members including Brian McLaughlin of Queens, who was convicted of racketeering and embezzlement; Anthony Seminerio, also of Queens, who died in prison while serving time for corruption; and Diane Gordon of Brooklyn, who was sentenced in a pay-to-play scam with a developer. Current Brooklyn Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. has been charged with bribery.
Asked if he or the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee should be more involved in vetting candidates to weed out the rotten apples, Silver said that’s not his role.
“I accept people who are sent to us by their constituents,” he said.
Meanwhile, Silver heatedly denied a Post report that Gov. Cuomo was trying to oust him from the speakership.
“I spoke to the governor. We are working as partners,” Silver said.
Silver said prosecutors should throw the book at corrupt pols and vowed to pursue laws to “root out” corruption.