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Silver Lawsuit over harassment settlement

ALBANY -- Pay the money back. That is the message from a constitutional activist to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Bob Schulz is the lead plaintiff in a case to have Speaker Silver pay back the State of New York the $103,000 of taxpayer settlement money he approved to go to one of the sexual harassment accusers of former Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Schulz filed a challenge to the payment, and a State Supreme Court judge is hearing an argument from Silver`s attorney as to why they believe the case should be dismissed.

"He approved only to pay for the Assembly`s responsibility not Mr. Lopez`s and that is what happened," said Christopher Massaroni, an attorney for the McNamee, Lochner, Titus and Williams law firm.

Massaroni argued the $103,000 was an agreed upon settlement between all parties involved and the state saved money by not going to trial.

Mr. Massaroni`s firm was hired by the state because the Attorney General`s office, who normally defends state employees, recused themselves, said an Assembly spokesman.

A contract between the state and the law firm could be as high as $545/hr depending on how many partners, associate partners, or paralegals work on the case. According to the New York State Comptroller`s office the law firm`s contract has different hourly rates depending on which people within the firm work on the case.

Schulz argues that Speaker Silver, under the state`s constitution and the Assembly rule book, did not have the authority to authorize a sexual harassment payment.

"Appropriations are not to include appropriations to silence employees of the Assembly who have been sexually harassed by a member of the Assembly," Schulz argued.

Both the State Attorney General and the Comptroller approved the payment given out in 2012.

The judge said she would make a written determination as to whether or not the case moves forward however she did not give a timetable for when the decision will come.