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Kearns: Silver’s cover-ups make him unfit to serve as speaker

By Michael P. Kearns

A famous Democrat and champion of the people, Andrew Jackson, once said, “One man with courage makes a majority.” It is important that we should all live by this principle when the moment or circumstances call for it.

Earlier this week I left the Democratic conference in Albany; the revelations of Sheldon Silver’s conduct were too much for me to take as a representative, but more importantly, too much for a father. It is important for one person to stand alone on behalf of children or those who need support in our society, including the disabled like my brother, and I stand alone with my daughter and the women who were victimized in this situation.

The simple question is whether Silver is fit to lead the New York Assembly. The facts are helpful.

A July 14, 2008, article in the New York Times, headlined “Two Accusers of an Ex-Aide Join an Effort to Oust Silver,” by reporter Danny Hakim, points out that Silver’s conduct in covering up sexual assaults and harassment is nothing new ( Silver can be counted on to act in his own political interests rather than those of the victimized women.

In the 2008 article, Silver expresses his regret, only to repeat this conduct with Vito Lopez in 2012, accompanied by more regret and a mea culpa. This is not recognition of wrongdoing and a determination to make sure this will not happen again. Rather, this has the appearance of regret for having been caught, despite efforts to cover up illegal acts.

What assurances can Silver give when the initial acts of a sexual predator – after the sexual assaults of 2006 and his professed regret – were met with gag orders for the first victims of Lopez in 2012? This allowed the illegal acts of Lopez to continue and to be visited upon innocent women who had the unfortunate luck to follow the initial victims employed by a sitting assemblyman. If the acts weren’t illegal, why were there secret settlements for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

They say the best thing in life is doing the right thing. In the final analysis, I am a father with a teenage daughter. I must ask, “Would I trust my daughter’s welfare under Sheldon Silver’s leadership or supervision?” The record is clear beyond a reasonable doubt: The answer is “no.” The world I want my daughter to grow up in does not have Silver as one of its leaders.

That is why I can no longer participate in the Democratic conference headed by Silver, and since I am a Democrat I will not join the Republican conference. This decision is not about any party or group that one belongs to, but rather it is about the difference between right and wrong.

Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, represents the 142nd District in the New York State Assembly.