Remember last week when Assemblyman Vito Lopez was scolded by legislative leaders for essentially being a pervy, dirty old man who shoved his hands up the skirts of young, female staffers? Well, Lopez’s pervy-ness is costing you money.
Turns out, the two women who accused Lopez of various acts of sexual inappropriateness aren’t the only women who’ve had pervy run-ins with the lawmaker — another woman was paid at least $103,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim against Lopez. And who footed the bill for the settlement? Taxpayers, that’s who — and we can thank Lopez’s former pal/current Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for signing off on the taxpayer-funded payout to “quietly” sweep the allegations against his buddy under the rug.
Silver — who until recently was pretty tight with the alleged pervert lawmaker — reportedly authorized the $103,000 payout to quietly settle the claims made by at least one (but possibly two) former female staffers.
Danny Hakim at the New York Times broke the story about the payout, which he reports was settled earlier this year. Hakim notes that the settlement includes $103,080 in public money, a confidentiality agreement, and a sexual harassment workshop for Mr. Lopez.
From Hakim’s report:
The previous claim was brought by at least one other woman who worked
for Mr. Lopez — and possibly more than one — and who was represented by
Gloria Allred, the prominent Los Angeles lawyer. The $103,080 does not
represent the full size of the settlement, because money controlled by
Mr. Lopez was used as well, people with knowledge of the deal said —
though it was not clear if it was from his personal finances, campaign
money or money affiliated with his nonprofit group. Mr. Lopez also spent
$46,000 on legal fees in March and April, according to state records.
Several people said it was two women, not one, who were involved in
the settlement that was negotiated among the state, Mr. Lopez’s
representative and Ms. Allred. The settlement was paid by the state on
June 13, about two and a half months before Mr. Lopez was censured by
the Assembly based on the allegations that he sexually harassed two
The more recent claims against the lawmaker were outlined in a letter Silver sent him last week.
Silver’s letter only echoed the findings of an investigation by the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance, which found that he harassed two young interns on multiple occasions, which not only is against the law, but violates the Assembly’s sexual harassment/retaliation policy.
Subsequently, Silver stripped Lopez of his chairmanship of the powerful Housing Committee, and banned him from employing people under the age of 21.
The committee found that the harassment started in June and ended in July, when one of the victims finally complained about the pol’s inappropriate behavior, which includes verbal harassment, an attempted (but unreciprocated) makeout sesh, and Lopez’s gettin’ a little grabby.
“There were multiple incidents of unwelcome physical conduct toward one complainant, wherein you put your hand on her leg, she removed your hand, and you then put your hand in between her upper thighs, putting your hand as far up between her legs as you could go,” the Committee found.
Since the Committee made its findings public, powerful members of his own party — including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Chuck Schumer — have called for his resignation.
This afternoon, Lopez stepped down from his post as chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. However, he refuses to give up his seat in the Assembly.