While Cuomo 'sources' reflect on Silver's weakness, on-the-record Cuomo shifts blame to Schneiderman and DiNapoli
11:48 am Sep. 10, 2012
Andrew Cuomo made a potentially important semantic argument in defense of embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's handling of a sexual harassment claim against a Democratic assemblyman that resulted in a six-figure taxpayer payment.
Cuomo, speaking to New York Post state editor Fred Dicker on his radio show this morning, said the $103,080 payment was "confidential" but not "secret".
It was, he argued, "not a deal done outside the checks and balances of government."
Cuomo, who has a strong working relationship with Silver, said the settlement deal was "reviewed" by the offices of statewide Democratic officials State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. That assertion differs from Schneiderman and DiNapoli's versions of what their respective roles were in approving in the payment, which, will be the subject of an investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
Cuomo's defense of Silver comes after the governor consulted with top aides about Silver's leadership prospects, according to what the governor or sources close to him told Dicker for his column today. Dicker's sources inform him that the governor is still trying to figure out the extent to which the longtime speaker has been wounded by the affair.
"Sheldon Silver signs secret deal," Cuomo said in a mocking voice. "Beautiful, poetic, except it wasn't true and it wasn't accurate and it wasn't right. It wasn't a secret deal."
"The public didn't know about it," Dicker interjected.
"Well, it had a confidentiality [component]," Cuomo said. "It wasn't a secret deal done by the speaker. It wasn't. You put that in your column three times, again. Except that it wasn't."
"What was it?" Dicker asked.
Cuomo suggested it was a deal that couldn't have been approved without the acquiescence of the state comptroller and state attorney general's offices.
"How does the speaker make a payment anyway without it going through the comptroller?" the governor said. "Did the attorney general's office review it?"
Cuomo later offered what he said was a better characterization of the payment.
"It wasn't a secret deal done by Sheldon Silver, where people would just think it was Sheldon Silver [who] signed a secret deal. It was a secret deal reviewed by the attorney general's office and implemented by the comptroller's office."
"But it was a secret deal, you just said it yourself," Dicker responded.
"Well, yes," Cuomo said. "It was an agreement with a confidentiality. But it was not a deal done outside the checks and balances of government."