Sheldon Silver, stepping down, stepping aside
Sheldon Silver, Photo: Azi Paybarah

Sheldon Silver agreed on Sunday to relinquish his duties as New York State Assembly Speaker on a temporary basis, as he fights federal corruption charges, reported The New York Times.

Because the plan has not yet been presented to the caucus, the exact arrangement is somewhat nebulous. But it appears to be an unusual arrangement, whereby Silver would not quit his post, but instead, temporarily delegate his duties as speaker to a group of senior Democratic Assembly members.

Silver’s Democratic colleagues immediately got behind him, following his arrest on Thursday. But still, the charges have caused mounting concern that, if protracted, would impede his ability to carry out his duties in what is considered one of the most instrumental and powerful posts in the state government.

Silver will not be stepping down; he is only stepping aside temporarily. Assembly majority leader, Joseph D. Morelle, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and Herman D. Farrell Jr., who represents a part of Manhattan, would assume responsibility for budget negotiations, while three other senior Democratic members— Carl E. Heastie of the Bronx, Catherine T. Nolan of Queens and Joseph R. Lentol of Brooklyn— will offer leadership support.

However, not all of Silver’s colleagues stand so squarely behind him. Assemblymember Keith Wright from Harlem said Silver’s decision to step aside must be coupled with real reform for the state legislature, which includes not only choosing a new Speaker, but also making sure more diverse voices are listened to “so that the Assembly is better viewed as representative of the entire state.”

“To be clear, this governing crisis affects us all and every conference member should be included in the solutions to New York ‘s problems,” said Wright. “Key legislative initiatives should be led by leadership teams blending, geography, ethnicity and seniority.

“In addition, all members should receive additional resources ranging from more staff to better technology in the Albany and district offices. These investments will transform our conference and make the Assembly work even better to execute the will of the people under both challenging times and periods of normalcy.”

Assemblyman Walter Mosley, representing the 57th District of Brooklyn, echoed Wright’s position, also calling for Silver’s resignation and legislature reform:

“In light of the most recent and ongoing developments, Assemblyman Silver must now resign as Speaker,” he said. “Assemblyman Silver’s temporary solution of appointing a committee of five to serve as interim Speaker lacks transparency and can quickly lead to crippling confusion and delays in the legislative process.

“Likewise, any ‘deal’ that does not have the full and complete participation of the conference cannot be accepted.

“The rules that govern the conference and the general body must be reformed to ensure that we are united and focused on the issues that are of concern to my constituents in Brooklyn and to the constituents of my colleagues in the legislature,” Mosley said.

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