Not The First Time (Updatedx2)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office has been insisting that the hush-hush settlement negotiated outside the ethics committee process with two of Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s accusers was the first of its kind.
But actually Silver did preside over one other settlement very early on in his term as speaker.
The incident dates back to the early 1990s. A young former Assembly staffer, Charmian Neary, sued her old boss, Assemblyman Mark Alan Seigel, and the Assembly itself, alleging Seigel had sexually harassed her and then fired her. Seigel rejected her claims.
Neary told me she filed a confidential complaint in 1992 with the Assembly human resources department. A report was produced that exonerated Seigel, the details of which were promptly leaked to the media. A year later, she decided to sue.
At the time, Neary said she had complained about Seigel’s behavior to the Assembly leadership and had been rebuffed.
In 1992, Neary testified about her ordeal before the Governor’s Task Force on Sexual Harassment at Hunter College, saying his behavior “has been going on a long time, and everyone knew about it.”
She condemned the permissive culture of the chamber that at the least turned a blind eye to, and at the worst encouraged, inappropriate treatment of female staffers.
And she wasn’t the only one to come forward at the time. Andrea Peyser, now a tart-tongued NY Post columnist, went public with her own sordid tale about her brief stint as a legislative staffer.
Mel Miller was speaker of the Assembly when the harassment Neary alleged took place. Miller was replaced in 1991 by Assemblyman Saul Weprin after Miller was stripped of his seat following his conviction on federal fraud charges (reversed on appeal in 1993).
Weprin suffered a stroke in January 1994 and died less than a month later. He was replaced in February by Silver, who, like Weprin, had headed the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
It was Silver who finally settled Neary’s claim not long into his first year as speaker. According to Neary, she received $80,000. (Adjusted for inflation, that would be about $123,000 today).
UPDATE: An Assembly spokesman, who stresses Silver was not in charge when this alleged harassment occurred, says the speaker had very little to do with this case since he wasn’t in charge until the very end of its timeline and did not negotiate the settlement. That task fell to the state attorney general.
(A previous version of this post said Republican Dennis Vacco was in office at the time, but he was elected in 1994 and took office in January 1995 – after this case was settled).
UPDATE2: Also, in addition to the “secret” settlement reached by Silver with Lopez’s first round of accusers, this lawsuit was handled in a routine manner, I’m told.
Neary’s experience prompted the Assembly to institute a new policy requiring a mandatory one-hour workshop on sexual harassment for all members.
At the time, the closed-door sensitivity training was conducted by officials from the Cornell University Institute on Women and Work.
Those trainings occur to this day. Apparently, they haven’t had much of an impact.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on September 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm, and is filed under Assembly, Democrats, Sheldon Silver, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|