4:25 pm Aug. 31, 20121
After emails were released to reporters showing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office had several rounds of conversations with a lawyer in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office about a sexual harassment case against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the A.G. released a statement saying that the Assembly's decision to keep an eventual settlement private was "inappropriate and contrary to the public interest."
"Our office policy requires that agreements of this kind do not include confidentiality provisions," Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman repeated an earlier claim that he didn't know the settlement agreement included a confidentiality requirement. His office told me the conversations were informal.
In today's statement, Schneidmerman said the Assembly gave his office "a copy of a model pre-litigation settlement agreement which included no provision mandating secrecy or confidentiality."
It's a rare direct shot from one of the state's most powerful Democrats at another, signaling among other things Schneiderman's eagerness not to get dragged any further into the story of the Assembly's admitted mishandling of the Lopez accusations.
Next week, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics is expected to meet privately and begin an investigation into the Assembly speaker's decision to use more than $100,000 in public money to settle a claim against Lopez and keep that settlement private.
Silver is expected to lead the New York Democratic delegation when they convene in North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention. Silver's spokesman said earlier this week he still plans to attend.
A Democratic Party official told me Lopez "was never a delegate and doesn't have credentials so we never expected him" to attend.
Since news of the settlement broke Saturday in the New York Times, questions have been raised about whether the attorney general and state comptroller approved the final deal. Spokesman for both said low-level staff were contacted, but neither the comptroller or attorney general personally were aware of the details of the settlement.
When asked if the payment was appropriate, or should have been blocked, a spokesman for DiNapoli declined to comment.