Brooklyn Boss Lopez Rebuked by Fellow Lawmakers
August 24th, 2012

Longtime Brooklyn party boss Vito Lopez will be stripped of his committee chairmanship and lose his seniority after an ethics committee found he violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced today that Lopez will be removed as chairman of the Assembly Committee on Housing, banned from any other committee chairmanship or leadership position and stripped of his seniority.

Silver also said that Lopez’s staff allocation will be reduced through attrition to the amount of a first-term member. Lopez will also be forced to undergo sexual harassment training. His office will be prohibited from employing staff under 21 years old or interns.

The bi-partisan Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance recommended the sanctions after reviewing allegations of sexual harassment brought against Lopez.

The Assembly has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment and we are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for all our employees, Silver said in a statement. The committee on Ethics and Guidance has been diligent in thoroughly and fairly investigating the allegations made in this case and I will immediately implement its recommendations.

Lopez’s office has yet to return calls for comment.

The letter from Silver to Lopez contains graphic detail of the allegations against Lopez. The Assembly committee unanimously found that the allegations were “credible.” And the allegations include that Lopez groped between a staffer’s legs, forced them on a trip to Atlantic City where he made aggressive sexual advances and made inappropriate comments about their bodies and attire.

Here is an excerpt of the letter:

The Committee unanimously found as follows:

1. That complainants’ allegations of unwelcome verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature were credible, including: That there was pervasive unwelcome verbal conduct by you toward both complainants from early June 2012 until the time they made complaints of sexual harassment in mid-July 2012, including repeated comments about their physical appearance, their bodies, their attire, and their private relationships; That the unwelcome verbal and physical conduct escalated over time; That 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 between her upper thighs, putting your hand as far up between her legs as you could go; That you required one of the complainants 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; and That other incidents of unwelcome physical conduct occurred, including holding one complainant’s hand and playing with her hair. That complainants’ perception that such conduct created an intimidating, hostile and offensive working environment was reasonable; That complainants’ allegations that you required them to write to you about how much they loved their jobs and cared about you, and that you criticized their notes for being insufficiently effusive, were credible; That your response was not credible; and That you violated the Assembly’s Sexual Harassment/Retaliation Policy, which appropriately provides that every Assembly employee is entitled to an employment environment free from sexual harassment and that sexual harassment will not be tolerated within the Assembly workplace.”

Removing Lopez as Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Housing and banning him from any other committee chairmanship or leadership position;
Reducing Lopezs staff allocation through attrition to the amount reserved for a first term member and forfeiting his seniority in the Assembly;
Requiring the Assemblyman to undergo supplemental sexual harassment training; and
Prohibiting Lopez from employing staff under 21 years old or interns in his Assembly offices.
By on August 24, 2012, 2:03 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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