Last week, a judge unsealed court documents that outlined federal prosecutors’ allegations that former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the three most powerful men in New York until his conviction on corruption charges last year, carried on at least two extramarital affairs during his time as an elected official. In the filings, the women are anonymized, but they have since been identified as Patricia Lynch, a lobbyist, and Janele Hyer-Spencer, a former assemblywoman and state employee.
Over the course of a number of hearings and court filings, attorneys for Silver and his alleged mistresses argued extensively that the evidence (and the documents discussing the evidence) not be entered into the public record, as doing so would make a fair trial, in the case of a retrial, nearly impossible. (Silver was convicted last year on a number of federal corruption charges.) What’s more, they argued, releasing this information would constitute an undue violation of the two women’s privacy.
Judge Valerie Caproni disagreed on both counts. In her order granting the government’s motion that the filings should be unsealed, she wrote, “While the Court is concerned about the Jane Does’ privacy interests, they arguably are not entirely ‘innocent’ third parties. Each allegedly had an extramarital affair with a public official and then exploited her relationship with the public official for personal gain.” In the context of “an amorous relationship where official government business and personal benefit are intertwined... there is the ever present risk of public scrutiny and a legitimate public interest in ensuring that government officials are acting in the public’s interest rather than in the private interest of a paramour.”
Indeed, prosecutors allege that not only did Silver carry on these affairs when he was Speaker but used his position as Speaker “to provide official benefits and access” to the two women with whom he was sleeping.
The woman the Post identified as the lobbyist, Patricia Lynch, served as Silver’s communications director for six years before founding her own PR firm, Patricia Lynch Associates Inc., in 2001. Based in Albany, the firm grew to be the second most influential in the state—in no small part due to Lynch’s connection to Silver. PLA expanded, opening up offices in Buffalo, New York City, and, in 2009, Panama City. (Incidentally, that office is located at the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City.) PLA’s reported compensation for its lobbying efforts peaked that year, at $8.3 million.
“When Pat started, she was cracking into a world that was dominated by men,” a partner at PLA, Darren Dopp, told Capital New York at the time. “It wasn’t exactly a cigar-chomping, old-boys network, but there was definitely a certain way of doing things. Along comes Pat. She has served a long time in the Assembly and knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to change lobbying. She wanted it to be about what you know, instead of who you know.”
Her extraordinary access to Silver — then one of the three most powerful politicians in the state — won her an enviable client list that included Madison Square Garden.
Silver killed the West Side Stadium that MSG opposed during the Bloomberg administration.
The former speaker’s conviction last year on corruption charges established just how readily his desire to consolidate power drew him into bed with real estate developers; hardly a surprise, then, that Shelly Silver’s sexual whims could so literally shape the Manhattan skyline. Putting the kibosh on the West Side stadium—apparently for one of his girlfriends—created the space for the $20 billion Hudson Yards project.
The second woman identified by the Post as one of Silver’s paramours, Janele Hyer-Spencer, who represented Staten Island’s Eastern Shore and parts of Brooklyn in the state Assembly from 2007 to 2010. Hyer-Spencer’s lawyer has confirmed that his client is one of the name-redacted women in the court filings, but denies that Hyer-Spencer’s relationship with Silver was anything other than a close friendship. According to the Post, Hyer-Spencer was fairly indiscrete, but none of her colleagues ever went to the press out of respect for something called the “Bear Mountain Compact.”
The longstanding pact dictates that downstate lawmakers never reveal the illicit, illegal or immoral activities that colleagues engage in north of the Bear Mountain Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between Orange and Westchester counties.
“It was the unwritten rule of Albany business because so many of the electeds in both houses had districts in New York City, Long Island and Westchester. They all have to pass the Bear Mountain Bridge” as they drive home from Albany, the insider explained.
Prosecutors allege that Silver “used his official position to help” one of his mistresses “obtain State employment.” That, the Post reports, was Hyer-Spencer: In 2010, Silver helped her lock down an $84,000/year gig with the Department of Education. (Silver was reportedly also a jealous lover: In 2012, he used redistricting to punish then-Assemblyman Dan Burling for also sleeping with Hyer-Spencer, forcing him out of office.)
The government’s allegations against the former speaker would seem to give credence to earlier accusations that Silver not only tolerated but covered up inappropriate behavior at the state capital. In 2006, Silver paid $500,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that he failed to properly investigate accusations of sexual harassment and rape against one of his top aides, J. Michael Boxley, who pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct.
In 2012, Silver used $103,000 in state money to secretly pay two women who’d accused ex-Assemblyman Vito Lopez of sexual harassment. Two other women then came forward, accusing Lopez of sexual harassment and Silver of covering it up. That case was settled last year, shortly after Silver resigned, to the tune of $580,000, of which the state paid $545,000.
Silver’s sentencing on the corruption conviction is scheduled for early May. Prosecutors are seeking a prison term “substantially in excess” of the 10 years recommended by the court’s probation department, arguing that it should be “greater than any sentence imposed on other New york State legislators convicted of public corruption offenses.”
“The public has a right to know what all is on the plate,” Judge Caproni said at a hearing last week. “This is not one of his better moments.” On Tuesday, Silver’s chosen successor, Alice Cancel, won the special election to replace him.