Rush to dump Lopez long overdue
Disgraced Democratic Assemblyman Vito Lopez did his best to placate Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others who have been calling for his resignation after separate investigations this week confirmed allegations of sexual harassment made against him last summer by a number of female staffers. But his agreement to resign at the end of the current legislative session, a month from now, wasn’t good enough for the governor, or for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, both of whom say Lopez should leave at once or be expelled. Both men are right, but one can’t help but wonder where they’ve been for the last 10 months.
As probes by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and Special Prosecutor Dan Donovan made clear, the 71-year-old Lopez behaved despicably on numerous occasions with young women employed by his office — groping them, pressuring them to give him massages, wear seductive clothing, stay overnight with him in hotel rooms, etc. The women feared for their jobs if they refused, but eventually a couple got up the courage to wear wires and record his advances, then filed complaints with Assembly leadership.
The JCOPE and special prosecutor’s investigations mostly served to confirm the news from last summer — that Lopez had indeed behaved like a pig; that Assembly leaders had gone to great lengths to keep it quiet, approving a secret $103,000 settlement for two of the women so they’d keep quiet about it; and that top staffers from the offices of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had signed off on the deal. After the story’s sordid details leaked to the media, Silver acknowledged his approach had been wrong, and apologized. And while the Assembly subsequently censured Lopez, and Silver stripped him of his Housing Committee chairmanship, cut his staff and took away his perks, he allowed his once-powerful Brooklyn ally to stay on the job (to which he was re-elected in November).
If Silver was as exercised by his colleague’s behavior as he now says he was, he should have made more of an effort to get rid of him before now. Ditto the governor.