Sheldon Silver, the longtime leader of the New York state Assembly, agreed to give up the position he has held for 21 years in the wake of federal corruption charges, a top lawmaker announced Tuesday.
The decision announced by Majority Leader Joseph Morelle came after Democratic lawmakers met behind closed doors for two days to discuss their response to the turmoil that appears likely to end one of the longest active tenures in American state politics.
"He said to me he will not impede the transition," said Morelle, surrounded by most of the 105 Assembly Democrats. "We'll have a vacancy on Monday."
As majority leader, the No. 2 post in the chamber, Morelle will be the interim speaker from the moment Silver resigns until the lawmakers formally convene again Monday. At that point, they plan to amend their rules to keep him as interim speaker until Feb. 10. That's intended to give any other member a chance to express interest and explain how he or she would lead, said Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti.
Silver did not address his colleagues or reporters on Tuesday but late Monday night said he expected to be exonerated. It is unclear whether Silver plans to resign or whether his tenure will be formally ended Monday by legislative action. Messages left with Silver's office were not returned.
The 70-year-old Manhattan Democrat was taken into custody last Thursday on federal charges he took nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks, but he insists he is innocent. He has led the Assembly for 21 years — the second-longest tenure of any sitting speaker in the nation.