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ALBANY - Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, undaunted by a scandal back home, will again have the honor of announcing that New York's Democratic delegates are endorsing Barack Obama for president during the Democratic convention.
A spokesman confirmed Monday that Silver will continue his high-profile duties at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. The schedule for Silver, who is orthodox Jewish, includes playing host of a dinner for delegates in a kosher restaurant.
Meanwhile, back in Albany, the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics is expected to take up a sexual harassment case in the Assembly beginning today in a special meeting.
Silver has said he welcomes the inquiry, which involves accusations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Silver mediated a secret settlement with two of Lopez's accusers in June at the accusers' request. The ethics commission might decide to include a look at Silver's role as it investigates Lopez.
Silver said he won't authorize any more settlements outside the ethics committee process because it conflicts with the need for transparency.
"The worst is over for Speaker Silver," said Hank Sheinkopf, a national political adviser who worked in the Clinton White House. "The fact is, the speaker did not act alone. All his actions were known to the comptroller and the attorney general."
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said they didn't know about the settlement and that staff attorneys had only cursory involvement, though emails Friday show the lawyers didn't try to stop or question the $103,000 to settle claims against Lopez.
One of the attorneys for the women, however, has blasted Silver, saying the settlement wasn't intended to protect Lopez from a formal investigation. A confidentiality clause in drafts of the settlement, which still hasn't been released publicly, states that the accusers can't talk about Lopez and that Lopez admitted no guilt.
Additional sexual harassment claims against Lopez were reported in July, and the Assembly ethics committee censured him in August. Silver then stripped Lopez of his leadership position and stipend. Only a felony or expulsion by legislators can remove a lawmaker, and Lopez insists he never sexually harassed anyone.
"Shelly weathers this storm," said former Democratic Assemblyman Michael Benjamin from the Bronx.