Gov. Andrew Cuomo is threatening to create a powerful investigative body to look into sexual harassment claims in the Legislature if the state ethics board fails to probe a secret Assembly settlement.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics has refused to say if it will investigate a $103,000 settlement approved by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in June to resolve claims against Democratic Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
The commission met for more than two hours behind closed doors Tuesday, but wouldn't comment on whether it would investigate Lopez, Silver's deal, or neither.
Just before Cuomo's statement Friday, a judge empowered a special prosecutor to investigate claims against Lopez and the settlement.
Silver says he welcomes a thorough commission investigation.
"The Speaker has made it very clear that he desires a thorough investigation to get all the facts out regarding this matter," a spokesman for Silver said. "A full investigation will show that all of the Assembly’s actions were legal and taken in good faith to protect the victims."
Under commission rules, legislative appointees can in effect veto a probe.
Ravi Batra, a member of the states ethics board, said Friday in a letter to reporters that he wants a federal probe into what he calls corruption on the board.
Batra has been a critic of the secrecy and control of the potentially powerful Joint Commission on Public Ethics that was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Batra said the secrecy the panel requires of its commissioners may have become a cover for unspecified illegality and criticized the commission for press leaks, saying it's driven by politics.
Batra, who says he isn't resigning, was appointed by Senate Democratic leader John Sampson.
He wants Cuomo, who once employed most of the commission's top officers, to empanel an investigation.
"While I reserve the right to resign, I will honor my duty to preserve and protect the Consitution, and help uncover the festering misconduct that seems afoot and bring those to justice who may have found nooks and crannies to do wrong," Batra wrote.
The commission had no immediate comment.