Late on Monday, January 26, the State Assembly’s Democrats requested the resignation of long-time leader Sheldon Silver as speaker in light of his arrest on charges of federal corruption last week.
The decision came in response to Silver’s bid to maintain his position by giving up some of his duties during his defense of the federal charges, after a closed-door meeting by the Democrats that lasted several hours.
After the meeting, Manhattan Democrat Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh said, “He should understand that he’s lost the confidence of a majority of our conference.”
Rochester Democrat Joseph D. Morelle, the Assembly majority leader, presented the position of himself and fellow Assembly Democrat members to Silver’s office on Monday night. Silver was giving till Tuesday to step down or possibly being forced out of his position as speaker.
Late Monday night, Silver expressed to reporters as he left the Capitol that he told no one that he was resigning, and would meet with his fellow Assembly Democrats the following day. He said, “I am the speaker. I’m standing. And I’m going to be standing for a long time.”
Since 1994, Silver has served as speaker, and until now he has shown to be a resilient leader in the legislature. At 10p.m. Monday, the five-hour private conference in the Capital by Democrats concluded and the fate of Silver became evident.
As his career’s future hung in the balance, Silver addressed the conference before leaving to his office. The members were left with heavy hearts, but at the end of the meeting came to the conclusion that Silver could not recover from the damage left by his arrest.
Queens Democrat Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry, “We think it’s a great difficulty for him to continue to operate. I think he recognizes that it’s a great difficulty for him to continue to operate. It’s not a time that anybody is feeling good about. However, I think the body is determined to uphold our traditions and our responsibilities as elected officials.”
Exact details of how the decision of the Democrats meeting would carry out is still being worked out. One possibility presented by members is that if Silver is acquitted of the corruption charges, he would be able to regain his speaker position.
On Thursday, January 22, representative of Manhattan’s Lower East Side Silver was arrested on charges that he used his political position to get payoffs in the millions.
Over 20 Assembly Democrats pushed for Silver’s resignation, as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo who said having a replacement take charge of the Assembly for Silver would be a “good thing.”
Although Cuomo did not directly call for Silver’s resignation, he did express concern of the problems his arrest could bring to state government.
At a Manhattan news conference, Cuomo said, “The government has to work, and the distraction of what’s going on with the speaker, it hurts the functioning of government.”
Cuomo criticized Silver’s proposal that he retain his position as speaker and relinquish some of his duties, like negotiating the state budget, until his charges are resolved.
The governor said, “Management by committee I’ve never been a fan of, and I’ve never seen it work well. From my own selfish point of view, I don’t understand how you negotiate with a committee.”