Silver Removes Lopez as Housing Committee Chair
by Nick Reisman in Albany
August 24, 2012
Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic political boss who has come under scrutiny for his use of legislative pork, has beens stripped of his Housing Committee chairmanship by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver following allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct made by two Assembly employees.
"The bi-partisan Committee on Ethics and Guidance today delivered to me a report signed by all eight of its members finding that Assemblymember Vito Lopez violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy," said Silver in a statement. "I have reviewed the report and will fully implement its recommendations. The members of the committee have fulfilled their obligation to independently and thoroughly review these allegations, and I thank them for their hard work."
The loss of his chairmanship came after a report from the Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance that accused Lopez of operating a “hostile” work environment that included verbal comments and unwanted physical contact.
The allegations of misconduct covered a period from June through mid-July of this year.
According to a letter send from Silver to Lopez, the Brooklyn lawmaker took a trip with a female Assembly aide in which she struggled to keep him off her. Lopez stands well over six feet tall.
The says Lopez required one of the staffers “to take a trip with you to Atlantic City in July 2012, and that you attempted to kiss her, that she struggled to fend you off before you stopped, and that on the drive back from Atlantic City you again put your hand between her legs.”
Another claim involved Lopez requiring staffers to write about “how much they loved their jobs” and cared about him. The aides were criticized if they were not sufficiently effusive in their praise.
The letter also states there were “multiple incidents of unwelcome physical conduct” that included putting his hand on her leg and running it up her thigh.
The removal and censure from Silver came after the Assembly Ethics Committee, chaired by Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, met three times since the middle of last month after the allegations were first reported to the Assembly counsel’s office.
Silver did speak with Lopez this morning, but it is not clear whether the women involved in the incidents continues to work in his office.
The speed of action from both the committee and Silver is pretty stunning, along with the fact that this was the best-kept secret in both Albany and New York City.
Silver was accused in a lawsuit of not quickly acting on complaints of sexual harassment surrounding from former aide Michael Boxley, who was accused of harassing and later raping a woman.
In 2006, Silver forced the resignation of Assemblyman Ryan Scott Karben, a Rockland County Democrat who quit after he was accused of sexually harassing male interns.