Assemblywoman Addie Russell, D-Theresa, defended the actions of her chamber's leader in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against a fellow member of the Assembly.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, has come under scrutiny for secretly authorizing a $103,080 payment to settle claims that powerful Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn, sexually harassed two Assembly employees. Mr. Lopez denies the allegations.
"Confidential settlements are something that are very common in the legal community," Mrs. Russell said. "I don’t think he deviated from any standard practice."
Mrs. Russell, a second-term legislator, does not face a Nov. 6 opponent. Mr. Silver said that it was "wrong" to authorize the secret settlement, which he did in the interest of transparency.
Like Mr. Silver, Mrs. Russell said that future settlements of this nature should be made public, while also protecting victims' identities. The Assembly is working to change its policy, Mrs. Russell said.
The Legislature should "err on the side of transparency so the public can be made more aware of what’s going on," Mrs. Russell said.
Unlike several fellow Democrats, Mrs. Russell declined to call on Mr. Lopez to resign from office. He has been stripped of his chairmanship of a housing committee and stepped down as the chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
"Whether or not he resigns is a decision he’s going to have to make," Mrs. Russell said.