Vito Lopez, one of the most powerful Democrats in Brooklyn, was censured Friday after an investigation found the State Assemblyman sexually harassed two female staffers. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
For years, he has been synonymous with Brooklyn politics. But on Friday, Assemblyman Vito Lopez was taken down a notch, stripped of many of his privileges after an investigation found he sexually harassed two female staffers. The allegations were revealed in a letter from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“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,” Silver wrote in the letter.
There were other incidents of unwelcome touching and Lopez required the staffers to write to him about how much they loved their jobs and cared about him, according to an investigation by the Assembly ethics committee.
As a result, Speaker Silver removed Lopez as chair of the Assembly housing committee, barred him from having interns or employees under the age of 21, reduced his staff and is requiring sexual harassment training for him and his staff.
Still, there were calls for Lopez to resign.
“As an elected leader in Brooklyn, as a leader within the Brooklyn Democratic party, I call for his immediate resignation and I ask that every elected official in Brooklyn join me in that effort,” said Brooklyn Democratic District Leader Lincoln Restler.
“This is the conduct of a sexual predator and the taxpayers should not be paying a sexual predator," said Susan Lerner, the head of good-government group Common Cause New York. "We think that Assembly member Lopez should resign.”
Lopez didn’t make any statements Friday. The women involved didn’t want to go public. Their attorney, in a statement, applauded Speaker Silver but also suggested censure wasn’t enough.
“In the private sector, any individual found by an employer to have engaged in egregious sexual harassment would be fired," the statement read. "Elected officials should be held to no less of a standard.”
Sources say the women have not filed a criminal complaint but haven’t yet ruled it out.