A lawsuit against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is heard in State Supreme Court Monday. As YNN's Megan Cruz reports, the case is about using taxpayer money to pay off two women who accused him of sexual harassment.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- On Monday, Sheldon Silver's lawyer claimed he did nothing wrong. In June 2012, Silver authorized a $103,000 payment to two former Vito Lopez staffers who said the assemblyman sexually harassed them.
Attorney Chris Massaroni said the state constitution does allow the Assembly to settle claims if settling accomplishes a valid public purpose. For example, he said the Assembly has previously paid out settlements in discrimination lawsuits.
In the case regarding the allegations against Lopez, Massaroni said the Speaker was thinking of the greater good of the public. He said by settling with the women, he'd spare the state a lengthy and expensive lawsuit.
However, Albany activist Robert Schultz, the man suing Silver, claimed he settled with the women for private reasons: to keep the allegations against his fellow Democrat from coming out.
Schultz says that's in violation of the state Constitution. It says, "the money of the state shall not be given or loaned to, or in aid of any private corporation or association, or private undertaking."
Schultz says that's why the Speaker did not refer to the case of the state's Ethics Committee.
Massaroni said, "There's no valid legal basis for his claim that the speaker is personally liable for the settlement payment. The payment was for a legitimate public purpose and we're confident the judge understands that and will dismiss the case."
Schultz is asking that the Speaker Silver pay back the $103,000 out of his own pocket.
The state's ethics committee and Staten Island's District Attorney conducted their own investigations of Lopez. Both found that Silver was free of any wrongdoing.
Lopez eventually stepped down in May this year after two more women accused him of sexual harassment. Those claims were forwarded to and found credible by the state's ethics committee.
On Monday, Judge O'Connor said she'd reserve decision on this motion to dismiss Schultz's suit again Silver for a later date.