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Brooklyn Assemblyman Lopez To Resign In June

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TWC News: Brooklyn Assemblyman Lopez To Resign In June
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State Assemblyman Vito Lopez announced Friday he intends to resign at the end of this year's legislative session on June 20.

The decision came just two days after special prosecutor Dan Donovan cleared the Brooklyn lawmaker of criminal wrongdoing over accusations he groped female staffers.

A report by Albany's Joint Commission on Public Ethics also released on Wednesday says Lopez, 71, engaged in "prolonged mistreatment of certain female members of his staff."

Lopez has maintained his innocence, adding he wants to remain in public service.

In his Friday statement, he says, in part, "I have made no secret that I intend to run for New York City Council in November, which requires me to resign my current term. Nevertheless, because the citizens of my district voted me back into office last November by an overwhelming majority, I feel obligated to serve out this session of the Assembly."

Despite that statement, Lopez does not have to resign in order to run.

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver released on Friday the text of a resolution he will introduce to have the Assembly's ethics committee immediately review the JCOPE report and consider sanctions against Lopez, including possible expulsion.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who on Thursday called on Lopez to step down, says in a Friday statement there should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment.

He adds, "Vito Lopez should not spend another day in office, let alone a whole month. He should resign effective immediately and if he does not, he must be expelled."

According to an attorney for Lopez's alleged victims, Silver first learned of these allegations 16 months ago. The JCOPE report finds that Silver did not take those allegations to the Assembly ethics committee as the process would dictate. Instead, he quietly settled them for more than $100,000. payment to settle the groping allegations.

"The speaker himself has offered an apology because the standard operating procedure was not complied with," said Charles Lavine, the chairman of the Assembly ethics committee.

Some public figures said the speaker is culpable. Calls for Silver's resignation continued Friday from Republicans and others, including the state's Green Party.

"Sheldon Silver has let down the women of New York and has betrayed the public trust. This very, very serious, what Vito Lopez did to individual women," said Sonia Ossorio of the National Organization for Women.

"If the Assembly were a private corporation and the speaker were the CEO and Vito Lopez were the chief financial officer, merely firing the chief financial officer would not end the inquiry," said Mark Peters, a former top state corruption prosecutor.

However, the Assembly has not calling for discipline against Silver.

"I do not believe it helps the state for us to make any substantial changes in leadership and the administration of the Assembly. I believe that will set the state back," Lavine said.

Lopez's district office in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn remained closed for most of Friday. The assemblyman has enjoyed great popularity in his district for many years, but some of his constituents indicted that they now have a change of heart.

"I think they should just get rid of him, take his seat away from him, you know?" said one Brooklyn resident. "That's ridiculous, what they say about the allegations against him, and then he wants to run for councilman? That's crazy"

"If he sexually harasses women... I don't think anyone who sexually harasses women should be in office at all," said another resident.

Silver intends to begin the ethics committee proceedings on Lopez on Monday. They could happen quickly, either that day or certainly by the end of the week, as legislators told NY1 that any items on the legislative agenda are on hold until this matter is resolved.

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