Dispatches From Albany
Assemblyman Micah Kellner has been publicly admonished and stripped of his committee chairmanship following an Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee investigation into allegations that he’d sexually harassed a female staffer in 2009.
In a vague letter released this evening by Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver’s office, the committee said comments made by Mr. Kellner in both 2009 and 2011 “together with other conduct, created a hostile work environment” that violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.
Barron for Barron
If there were any lingering doubts that the Democratic-controlled State Assembly would get behind Bill de Blasio’s legislative agenda, they were dispelled today, according to the mayor-elect.
Councilman Charles Barron can be described in many ways, but demure and dispassionate typically aren’t on the list.
The bombastic councilman, for instance, launched his unsuccessful bid for Congress last year by declaring, “I don’t care what they say, I’m still not saluting the flag!” In the halls of Washington, Mr. Barron vowed he’d continue to “stand up for Robert Mugabe, who’s an African hero–taking land back from white people who stole the land from us in the first place!”
Now, after 12 years as a constant presence at press conferences and rallies, the term-limited eastern Brooklyn councilman will be forced out of office. But he hopes his wife, Inez Barron, an assemblywoman with identical ideological stripes, can cement the Barron legacy.
The controversy never seems to end in New York City politics.
Upper East Side Assemblyman Micah Kellner–one of the few Assembly Democrats to criticize Speaker Shelly Silver’s handling of the Vito Lopez scandal–is now facing sexual harassment allegations of his own.
The City Council candidate was allegedly the subject of a sexual harassment complaint made by a female staffer four years ago. But, according to the New York Times, the complaint was never referred to the Assembly’s ethics committee, prompting the dismissal of a top Assembly lawyer, Bill Collins.
At a Democratic club meeting in Queens last night, Councilman Danny Dromm said progressives should “thank God” for embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Speaker, not revile him.
“Thank God for Shelly Silver,” Mr. Dromm said to his group, the News Visions Democratic Club in Jackson Heights, when the discussion shifted to Albany politics. “A lot of conservative stuff that might have happened didn’t happen. I don’t know what his prospects are for the Assembly, but we’ll see.”
Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver’s office released a statement late Thursday suggesting for the first time that disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez could be expelled from office following the damning Joint Commission on Public Ethics report.
Per the statement, Mr. Silver intends to introduce a resolution tomorrow asking the Assembly’s Ethics & Guidance Committee to “recommend appropriate sanctions including expulsion” against Mr. Lopez following the report, which detailed what City Council Speaker Christine Quinn described as “nauseating” conduct with young female staffers.
Although the New York Post ran a front-page story today reporting that Governor Andrew Cuomo is seriously considering a coup d’etat against influential Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, the governor himself is denying any such scheme exists.
“It is wholly up to the legislative bodies to select a leader,” Mr. Cuomo said on The Capitol Pressroom this morning. “I would never, even for a moment, try to influence that decision.”
CHARLOTTE, NC — Politicker ran into former Governor David Paterson while he was working the room inside the CNN Grill at the DNC Wednesday and we asked him about all of the drama that surrounded the New York delegation at the convention. Mr. Paterson heaped praise upon Mr. Cuomo and the delegation’s leader, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and he had harsh words for one of their critics,bat-wielding 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.
“Carl Paladino should take that bat and hit himself in the head with it, it would do us all a favor,” said Mr. Paterson.
CHARLOTTE, NC — Last night, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was cut off as he was giving a lengthy speech delivering the New York delegation’s votes at the Democratic National Convention. This morning, Politicker asked Mr. Silver how it felt to have his speech cut short when we saw him at the New York delegation breakfast.
“I wasn’t expecting that and, you know, we’re a big state, we have a lot of votes and there’s a lot to say,” Mr. Silver said.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office is not impressed with James O’Keefe’s latest hidden camera video. Mr. O’Keefe, a controversial conservative activist, posed as an executive with a do-nothing company in the clip and met with a pair of union officials in New York asking whether they could use their political connections to help him secure environmental grants for simply digging and re-filling holes in the dirt. The men Mr. O’Keefe spoke to, John Hutchings of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, former assemblyman Ronald Tocci and Mr. Tocci’s brother, Anthony Tocci, describe how they have lobbyists who help them “push our agenda through.” They specifically name several elected officials they claim are friendly to them; Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressmen Eliot Engel and Jerry Nadler and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Mr. Silver’s spokesman, Michael Whyland, told us Mr. O’Keefe’s video shouldn’t be treated as serious journalism.
“This is not reporting. This is not journalism. It doesn’t even rise to the level of a comic strip. This is the kind of stuff that gives honest reporters a bad name,” Mr. Whyland said.