ALBANY—Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is set to cede power to five of the chamber's senior members, two people briefed on his plans told Capital.
Silver, a Democrat from lower Manhattan, was charged on Thursday with accepting $6 million in what prosecutors said were “kickbacks” disguised as legal fees in exchange for official favors. He is set to huddle on Monday with his chamber's 100-plus member Democratic conference, which would have to approve the proposal.
Silver became engaged in talks about stepping aside late Sunday, the people said and the Daily News reported, and arrived at a plan to tap the quintet to help handle some of the responsibilities of leading the state's lower house.
The group would include majority leader Joe Morelle of Rochester, as well as Denny Farrell of Harlem, Joe Lentol of Brooklyn, Cathy Nolan of Queens and Carl Heastie of the Bronx.
It's unclear which member would be responsible for what duties.
Each of the sources described the arrangement as temporary, with Silver retaining the option to reassume his powers. In an email, Silver spokesman Mike Whyland said the speaker would remain in place.
What affect will this arrangement have on the education reform agenda Governor Cuomo wants to impose on the state?
Hard to say that a quintet of senior members would be any less effective at fighting back against Cuomo than a Sheldon Silver weakened by scandal and indictment, but that's assuming these people want to fight back.
At least one of these five - Morelle - is a close ally of Cuomo.
You can bet Cuomo will look to take advantage of the circumstances here to expand his power and influence in a legislative session where he was expected to have much less - at least in the Assembly.
Is it an accident that in a year when Assembly members were pissed at Cuomo and sick of his "My Way Or The Highway" governing style their leader is arrested on corruption charges, the Assembly is thrown into disarray, and the governor's power and influence is expanded exponentially just as he's looking to push through an aggressive agenda after being re-elected with anemic vote totals?
UPDATE - 8:08 AM: Consensus seems to be Silver's "ceding power" to five subordinates is him actually keeping power, running things from behind the scenes.
We'll see if this maneuver works or if the pressure on him to step down, growing all weekend as the tabloids hit him daily with barrages of stories, continues to mount.