Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda, a Bronx Democrat, has added his name to the slowly growing list of Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conference members publicly calling for him to fully relinquish power in the wake of reports that he will try to retain his leadership title (and its accompanying stipend) while tapping a five-member leadership team to run the chamber while he focuses on his legal defense.

In a statement released by his Assembly office, Sepulveda acknowledged that this is a “difficult time” for Silver and his family, and said Democrats should be “grateful” to the speakaer for his service in his current role since 1994 – a period that saw the institution of universal pre-K for the state, the end of the Rockefeller drug laws, passage of the SAFE Act, passage (in the Assembly only) of the DREAM Act, “and so much more.”

“With a strong belief in the presumption of innocence I believe that Speaker Silver deserves his day in front of a jury before we pass judgment on his alleged actions,” Sepulveda said.

“However, as this body moves into budget negotiations, one of the most important parts of the year, the criminal complaint filed against the speaker has clearly become a distraction and has taken the spotlight away from so many of the important issues we should be debating. Issues like education, criminal justice reform, and infrastructure, among others, have now taken a back seat due to the speaker’s unfortunate situation.”

“The focus of this body right now must be budget negotiations, an area where the Speaker is an instrumental component. In light of these recent issues his position as a negotiator has been greatly compromised. The governor’s proposed budget will have an impact on every New Yorker, and our job as legislators is to ensure that our communities are represented in this budget. Our constituents are our first and most important duty.”

“There comes a time when an institution must come before any individual, and it is for these reasons that I believe that Speaker Silver should step down as speaker and allow for this body to get to work on these issues without being distracted,” the assemblyman continued. “Already since the speaker’s arrest the Assembly was forced to cancel session on a day that we should have been honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

“It is likely that distractions like this will continue throughout the legislative session period if Speaker Silver remains in his leadership position.”

Sepulveda said he hopes he and his colleagues can elect a “new speaker,” but he did not express a favorite candidate for the post.

Sepulveda is one of the younger members of the Assembly Democratic conference. He was elected in November 2012 to fill the seat left vacant by Peter Rivera when he departed to take a job with the Cuomo administration as labor commissioner – a post from which Rivera has since retired.

Silver’s arrest late last week on federal corruption charges exposed a number of rifts within the Democratic conference – including the gap between the veteran members who have a long history with the speaker and perhaps owe him for favors, assistance and/or protection, and newer members who haven’t had much time to build a long-standing relationship with Silver, though he may have helped elect them through DACC, which he controls.

A number of these newer members are marginals and/or were elected on reform platforms, and their ongoing support of the damaged speaker could come with a political cost when the next elections role around.

Sepulveda is the third Democrat to defect publicly from Silver’s side, following Buffalo’s Mickey Kearns (never a Silver supporter to begin with) and Manhattan’s Keith Wright (who got left out in the cold when five other potential Silver replacements forged the leadership-sharing deal Silver is now floating).

But it’s worth noting that Sepulveda hails from the Bronx, which is home to one of the five members of the leadership team: Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who is also chair of the Bronx Democratic Party.

Part of the reason Silver chose the members he did was to create a delicate balance of would-be successors, such that none of them would be able to put together a coalition to mount an outright coup. There’s a member from each of the four major NYC boroughs – Heastie from the Bronx, Denny Farrell from Manhattan, Cathy Nolan from Queens and Joe Lentol from Brooklyn – (Staten Island is not represented, but it has just two Democratic members, and isn’t home to a potential speaker candidate), and also one upstater (Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle).

Assumedly, each of these leadership team members would be responsible to selling this idea to colleagues in their respective boroughs. Some boroughs – like Brooklyn – are known for their infighting and inability to unify all of its 20 assembly members, while others – like Queens, with 18 Democrats – are known for voting in a bloc on political matters. The fact that Heastie lost a member in the Bronx (one of 11 seats in that borough, including his own) isn’t a deal breaker, but it doesn’t look good, either.