ALBANY, N.Y. - A Buffalo assemblyman has split from the Democratic conference after a state ethics report showed Assembly leaders shielded sexual harassment allegations from public view.
Assemblyman Michael Kearns, D-Buffalo, will call on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to step down from his post at a news conference Monday afternoon, according to Kearns' office. The lawmaker, who was elected in a special election last year, had been vocally critical of Silver during his campaign, but sat with Assembly Democrats despite initially winning on the Republican line.
Kearns becomes the first Democratic lawmaker to call for Silver's ouster since he was portrayed negatively in the Joint Commission on Public Ethics report last week.
Both JCOPE and Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, in separate reports, faulted Silver for not referring initial harassment complaints against now-former Assemblyman Vito Lopez to the Assembly Ethics Committee and
In an interview with 2 On Your Side, Kearns said "Based on what I read in the J-COPE investigation I'm very disappointed and I do think he should resign. I think we need a change, we need people who are going to work from the ground up not the top down.
Until we have equal protection under the law, where everyone is treated the same way, even elected officials we're going to continue to have corruption in Albany."
Scott Brown: "Is it a fear of retribution that prevents people from speaking up?"
Assemblyman Kearns: "Absolutely. People are afraid of not getting things done. I think people are afraid of money getting cut from their school districts, bills not getting passed. It's high pressure. High pressure in Albany, high stakes but one thing we have to remember is what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong.
Late Monday afternoon, Silver held a news conference where he made three main points-
* He'll call for a new office of Independent Counsel to investigative all sexual harassment complaints and that Silver's office will have nothing to do with such complaints in the future.
* He wants to ban any and all confidential settlements in all parts of state government.
* Silver says he will not resign, and instead says he will remain as Speaker as long as he has the support of his Democratic colleagues.
Gannett/ Joe Spector