Taxpayers will be paying a hefty settlement to two women who were sexually harassed by former Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Gov. Cuomo, meanwhile, wants to see wholesale changes in the state legislature that he says could reduce the risk of future scandals. NY1’s Zack Fink filed the following report.
The two women at the heart of a controversial case, Victoria Burhans and Chloe Rivera, worked for former Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
They will receive a total of $580,000. The bulk of that, $545,000, will come from the state. The rest will be paid by Lopez himself.
The case led to Lopez's resignation from the Assembly in 2013, which caused problems for former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, who helped cover up previous harassment claims against Lopez. Silver survived the Lopez scandal but resigned the speakership this week, the result of an unrelated federal corruption case.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is vowing to support a strong ethics reform package this year to clean up Albany. At an event on Long Island, the governor made some of his strongest comments yet in support of ending outside income for state lawmakers, which is at the heart of the case against Silver.
"Either say it's a full time job and we are going to raise the salary and pay you as a full-time job, which I would support, or say it's part time, and you can have your outside business but you have to disclose the income,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo gave a stock presentation of his goals for the year that he delivered last month. But this time he left out the clubby insider jokes about his relationship with Silver and Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
"We will be our own version of the three amigos. A little different from the past but the same basic idea,” said Cuomo.
Silver was arrested the day after Cuomo's speech. Later that week, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara took aim at Albany's culture of three men in a room, who make all major budgetary decisions.
"And it's weird to me a little bit that officials and writers joke about it. Good naturedly. As if they are talking nostalgically about an old sitcom. Coming up after 'Happy Days,' it's 'three men in a room.' Or maybe, I don't know, 'the three amigos,’” said Bharara.
The governor says the most important thing he and the members of the legislature will do this year is pass ethics reform. It remains to be seen if that gets folded into a larger criminal justice reform package or has to stand on its own.