State Assemblyman Vito Lopez announced Tuesday he is stepping down as Brooklyn's Democratic Party chairman, amid his censure over sexual harassment allegations and a new report that claims a secret payment involving $103,000 of taxpayer money was used to settle a previous lawsuit filed against the embattled lawmaker. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
The Brooklyn Democratic Party boss has lost his throne.
Four days after he was censured, Assemblyman Vito Lopez said he would not seek re-election as the leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
"My political history has been to fight through challenges and political conflicts but the for the sake of loved ones and the Democratic party, it is important that I take this action," Lopez says in a statement.
Later in the statement, he says "I have never sexually harassed any staff and I hope and intend to prove in the coming months the political nature of these allegations."
Last week, Lopez was stripped of his leadership role in the assembly and was censured for alleged sexual harassment against female staffers.
The assembly paid $100,000 to settle previous sexual harassment claims against him and they did so confidentially. Late Tuesday, Speaker Sheldon Silver said in the future, all allegations should go to the ethics committee.
In his statement, the assemblyman said he wanted to concentrate on his job as an assembly member. When NY1 visited his office in Brooklyn, his staff said he wasn't in. A closed sign hung on the door, even though his staff sat inside.
Stepping down as county leader may not silence Lopez's critics. A growing onslaught of politicians are calling for his resignation.
"If the facts are true about Mr. Lopez and the incidents of harassment, I think he should resign," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The governor also called for an investigation by the state's ethics commission.
"They should do an investigation, find the facts," Cuomo said. "Then the people of this state will know the facts and everybody will know the facts."
Lopez is up for re-election this year. Currently, he is running unopposed.
"Vito Lopez will not go quietly into the night," said Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "He hasn't gone so far. Probably leaving the county leadership in the assembly is a way to say 'wait a second, I don't have to leave the assembly. I have given up everything else.'"
In his statement, Lopez says he will continue to serve the people of his district.