WNYT.com

Speaker Silver's law firm awarded $2.6 million of taxpayer money in legal settlement

Posted at: 06/13/2013 6:10 PM
Updated at: 06/13/2013 6:14 PM
By: Bill Lambdin



ALBANY - New York State gets sued all the time for actions taken by its hundreds of thousands of employees.

Some cases get tried, some settled. Most don't receive much attention.

But when a case settles for two point six million dollars and the payment goes to the law firm of which the Assembly Speaker was and still is "of counsel", we taxpayers might raise a few eyebrows and want to ask a few questions.

Silver critic Steve McLaughlin does.

"It is a conflict of interest and it's part of the reason why I have (said) you need to have term limits, at the very least, on leadership," Assemblyman McLaughlin (R - Melrose) said.

Speaker Silver is already under pressure for agreeing to a secret settlement of about 130-thousand dollars after accusations Vito Lopez was harassing young female assistants.

Now NewsChannel 13 has learned of a settlement 20 times as large also with connections to the Speaker.

The Speaker's Press Secretary says in a brief written statement that the case was initiated a decade before Silver joined the firm of Weitz and Luxemberg and that the Speaker does not represent clients who have business before the state.

Documents from the State Comptroller's office confirm the 2.6 million dollar settlement was authorized in late 2005 to the law firm of which Silver is "of counsel".

Legal experts not directly involved in the Silver matter say the status "of counsel" means different things at different firms.

It may or may not mean the Speaker would get a cut of the profits from the legal settlement, but this new information raises further questions about the Speaker's actions at a time when some observers are already saying it is time for him to go.