Assemblyman in harassment scandal changes mind, quits immediately
CAPITOL The New York assemblyman accused of sexually harassing and intimidating young women staffers for years notified the Assembly Saturday that he will resign before he’s expelled from the Legislature.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Assemblyman Vito Lopez notified the chamber that he will resign effective Monday morning. Silver was to begin a rare effort to expel the fellow Democrat on Monday.
Two reports released last week detailed lurid accusations of sexual harassment of several women on Lopez’s staff, but neither report found proof of a crime.
On Friday, Lopez ignored demands by Silver and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, head of the Democratic party, to resign immediately.
Instead, Lopez said he would resign at the end of the legislative session on June 20 to continue to wage his campaign for a seat on the New York City Council. Lopez noted two investigations found he committed no crime and that only the voters, who overwhelmingly re-elected him last fall amid the scandal, should decide if he leaves office.
But on Saturday Lopez used a single, terse sentence to announce the resignation from the seat he’s held since 1984: “I hereby resign the public office of Member of the Assembly from the 53rd Assembly District, Kings County, effective 9 a.m. Monday, May 20, 2013.”
Silver had no immediate comment on Lopez’s resignation.
In a report released last week, the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics found “a substantial basis to conclude” Lopez violated civil provisions of state Public Officer’s Law. It also said Lopez violated the public trust by forcing employees to acquiesce to his demands and receive privileges and plum assignments, or be threatened with job loss or demotion.
Special Prosecutor Daniel Donovan also listed a string of allegations against Lopez including forcing his hand up a woman’s legs, trying to coerce them to share hotel rooms with him, and requiring them to write flattering and flirtatious memos to him that he later tried to use to discredit accusations against him.