NOW Outlines Expectations In JCOPE's Probe Of Vito Lopez's Pervy-Ness -- And Silver's Coverup
NOW-NYC President Sonia Ossorio urges JCOPE to get to the bottom of allegations of sexual misconduct against Assemblyman Vito Lopez -- and the Shelly Silver-driven coverup that followed.
Assemblyman Vito Lopez is a grade-A pervert. That much we know (for example, he would prefer you not wear a bra to work, ladies). But the lengths to which Assembly leaders -- most notably Lopez's former pal/current Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver -- went to coverup Lopez's multiple gropings of young, female staffers remains a mystery.
New York's Joint Commission On Public Ethics (JCOPE) is investigating multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by Lopez, and how those allegations were handled by legislative leaders. This morning, the National Organization for Women and Common Cause/NY explained what they expect of the Commission's investigation.
Additionally, NOW-NYC President Sonia Ossorio says it's absurd to prohibit women under 21 years old from working in Lopez's office -- a policy Silver implemented for the assemblyman when he was formally censured by the Legislature in August.
"Is that really one of Sheldon Silver's answers," Ossorio asks. "If a lawmaker harasses interns and 20-year-olds, don't hire interns and 20-year-olds?"
Further reading on Lopez's pervy-ness:
She also says "the Assembly's policy on sexual harassment must be implemented with transparency and should penalize the perpetrators, not the current or future victims -- barring interns and employees under the age of 21 because they're the ones who are being targeted is outrageous, discriminatory, and utterly unacceptable."
Later, Ossorio compared Silver's ban on young, female interns for Lopez to a proposed curfew for Israeli women in the 1970s, the purpose of which was to keep them from getting raped by men.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, however, had her own proposal: "But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home," she said at the time.
Certainly, if perverts like Lopez are the problem in the Assembly, they should be the ones punished -- although, we're not sure why anyone in their right mind would want to work for a perverted, old bully like Lopez. Regardless, Ossorio's point is that any restrictions should be placed on the pervert, not the potential victim.
As for the JCOPE investigation, Ossorio says the investigation is a chance for the Commission to do what it was setup to do: weed out corruption in state government -- and not just accept the insider politics that has become the status quo in Albany.
"There must be recourse which demonstrates that there are not two sets of rules -- one for the powerful and well-connected, and one for everybody else," she says, going on to say that, "JCOPE should issue a report that clearly identifies who knew what, when they knew it, and what they did about it. Because of the secretive manner in which the Assembly conducted itself, a full airing of the facts is essential."
Ossorio -- and other speakers at this morning's event -- seem to place the majority of the blame for that "secretive manner in which the Assembly conducted itself" squarely on Silver, who callously ponied up more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded hush money to keep some of the allegations against Lopez under wraps.
If you're unfamiliar with Silver's role in the supposed coverup, here's the gist (from one of our prior posts):
Silver approved a payoff of more than $103,000 in taxpayer money to silence two of Lopez's alleged victims.
After Lopez's initial accusers were successfully paid off, Lopez astonishingly/allegedly sexually harassed at least two other young, female staffers in his office -- which makes sense considering Silver gave him the impression that he was free to feel up whomever he wants by paying off two of his accusers.
But that's just the latest example of Silver using his powerful position in state government to help out one of his buddies hit with sexual misconduct allegations -- in 2001, a young female staffer accused Silver's former chief counsel J. Michael Boxley of sexually assaulting her in his apartment. Rather than go to police, she opted to pursue the matter through the Assembly, which turned out to be a mistake.
The investigation into Boxley was soon closed (thanks to Silver), and he remained on Silver's staff as if nothing ever happened.
Two years later, Boxley pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct -- in a sweetheart deal that kept him out of jail -- for an attack on a different woman. Then, in 2006, Silver and the Assembly agreed to pay $500,000 to a Jane Doe because the speaker failed to properly investigate the initial accusations and for "tolerating a culture of sexual harassment in the Assembly."
Given the fact that both coverups led to further abuse, critics have compared Silver's actions (or inactions) to administrators at Penn State University, who hid allegations that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing dozens of young boys.
"We've gotten a lot of apologies and excuses from Albany, but 'I'm sorry, it won't happen again' just isn't good enough," Ossorio says.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.