NEW YORK CITY — Sheldon Silver is out as speaker of the Assembly just days after his arrest on federal corruption charges in an alleged bribery and kickback scheme.
"On Monday, there will be a vacancy in the office of speaker," Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle said in Albany Tuesday while surrounded by most members of the Democratic conference.
The Assembly will elect a new speaker on Feb. 10. Morelle, a Rochester Democrat who is considered a top candidate for speaker, will serve as interim speaker until that election, after a special vote to change the rules to allow him to do so.
Silver, who has maintained that he is innocent and has said he will be vindicated, is aware of the decision, Morelle said.
"The speaker will not impede the transition. He knows about it. He has asked me to say that he will not impede the transition," Morelle said.
It is unclear if Silver, who has represented the Lower East Side and Downtown since 1977, will resign or whether the Assembly will force him out.
Asked what would happen if Silver refused to resign, Morelle said, "It means that on Monday there will be a vacancy in the office of speaker. The speaker knows that. The members know that. We are united in purpose and that's going to happen."
Silver was arrested Thursday and accused of receiving a total of $6 million in bribes and kickbacks from two law firms masked as legitimate income, prosecutors said.
Much of the money came as referral fees for cases and clients Silver sent to a personal injury law firm Weitz & Luxenberg and another small firm, Goldberg & Iryami, which handles real estate tax appeals.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Silver did no work for the referral fees and used his power as speaker to direct tax breaks to two developers he referred as clients to Goldberg & Iryami, including luxury real estate firm Glenwood Management, the state's largest political donor.
Silver also directed taxpayer grants to respected Columbia research doctor Robert Taub for referring mesothelioma personal injury cases to Weitz & Luxenberg, according to the indictment.
Assembly members say the federal charges are too much of a distraction, especially with the upcoming budget season.
Silver had proposed a power-sharing arrangement where he would step back from his role as speaker and five senior leaders would guide the Assembly. That plan fell apart as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other prominent leaders questioned whether it would be effective.
Additional prominent Democratic politicians began calling for Silver to resign, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and even some of Silver's Assembly colleagues, including longtime Harlem Assemblyman Keith Wright.
Mayor Bill de Blasio remained one of the most prominent leaders expressing support for Silver, calling the embattled speaker a "man of integrity" last week. On Tuesday, de Blasio continued to support Silver, saying he didn't think it was necessary for the longtime speaker to resign his post.
Silver has been effective in helping to push some of de Blasio's agenda in Albany on issues such as universal pre-K.
Wright and Morelle are just two of the Democrats listed as possible permanent replacements for Silver.
"There are a great number of people in that conference who have exhibited great leadership in the last several days. They will make their decisions about what they will do in terms of seeking the office," Morelle said.
Asked if he was interested in the position, Morelle said: "Today is not the day to make an announcement."
Others candidates include Assemblyman Carl Heastie of The Bronx.
Silver has said he has no plans to resign his seat.
"We're confident that we can go forward, get back to work in terms of the budget and continue to lead people in the state," Morelle said.