As Vito Lopez resigns, scrutiny of Speaker Silver mounts
State Assemblyman Vito Lopez is set to resign Monday morning after an ethics report detailing sexual harassment allegations against him led Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to take steps to expel the assemblyman. But as Lopez prepares to leave office, Silver is facing mounting scrutiny for secretly approving a settlement with two women who accused Lopez, the New York Times reports.
The report released last week by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics found that Silver and his staff failed to refer the initial allegations against Lopez to the ethics committee. And a separate report by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan suggested that the way Silver’s staff handled the allegations encouraged Lopez to continue with his inappropriate conduct.
The state Republican Party and several Assembly Republicans have called for Silver’s resignation, the Times reports. Women’s groups and government watchdog organizations have also criticized the speaker. No prominent Democratic elected officials have called for Silver to step down.
“The speaker has said from the start that we have made serious mistakes in the way this was handled, although we believed at the time we were acting according to the wishes of the victims,” a spokesman for Silver wrote in an email to the Times. “We will be discussing with members important changes so these mistakes will not be repeated.”
The allegations against Lopez first became public last August. Anger towards the assemblyman intensified after last week’s report, which contained graphic details of how Lopez sexually harassed at least eight female staffers. He told the women to massage him, wear low-cut blouses and miniskirts, stay overnight with him to “cuddle” and other requests. Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated that Lopez should be expelled if he does not resign.
Lopez said Friday that he would resign on June 20 and then focus on his run for City Council, but he announced on Saturday that he would resign effective Monday at 9 a.m.