26 January 2015
New York Assembly Speaker yesterday agreed to step down temporarily because of pressure from his fellow Democrats. He was indicted on corruption charges last Thursday. A Federal Judge ordered the freeze of $3.8 million in various bank accounts controlled by him. The indictment accuses him of receiving bribes and kickbacks amounting to $4million. The kickbacks were from two law firms with which he was associated. He reported the kickbacks as legal fees. In one case Silver allegedly steered $500,000 grant to a doctor who had been sending asbestos related illness to one of the law firms associated with Silver. In the other it was alleged that he received $650,000 from a firm representing real estate interests for influencing legislation.
Newspapers reported that Silver had not permanently quit his post but has just passed on some of the duties of the Speaker to a group of senior Assemblymen. Silver, 70, was one of the most influential politicians in New York for the past 2 decades. Silver will remain in the Assembly and regain his position if he was found not guilty of the accusations. It was also stated that the trial may take 18 months to 2 years to conclude and therefore he would not be able to fight the coming elections in 2016.
This is not the first time Silver faces a scandal. Recently one of his close friends stole $9 million from the New York’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. His friend was the CEO of this Council. It was also alleged that Silver protected the members of the assembly from prosecution by using his influence. In a news conference after his arrest US Attorney Preet Bharara said that the indictment echoed greed, cronyism and self-dealing. The Federal authorities also mentioned that Silver failed to disclose $ 700,000 which he received in 2002 as referral fees from a tax law firm Goldberg & Iryami.