Vito Lopez Loses Housing Committee Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

By Colin Campbell (Politicker)
August 24, 2012

Speaker Shelly Silver’s office just announced news certain to make significant waves among Brooklyn politicos.

Among the many allegations is that Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the powerful head of the Kings County Democratic Party, required some of his staff to write “about how much they loved their jobs and cared about [him],” and that he “criticized their notes for being insufficiently effusive.”

Mr. Silver also wrote a letter to Mr. Lopez outlining the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. You can read those, as well as Mr. Silver’s press release announcing the news below:

  • That there was pervasive unwelcome verbal conduct by you toward both complainants from early June 2012 until the time they made complaints of sexual harassment in mid-July 2012, including repeated comments about their physical appearance, their bodies, their attire, and their private relationships;
  • That the unwelcome verbal and physical conduct escalated over time;
  • That there were multiple incidents of unwelcome physical conduct toward one complainant, wherein you put your hand on her leg, she removed your hand, and you then put your hand between her upper thighs, putting your hand as far up between her legs as you could go;
  • That you required one of the complainants to take a trip with you to Atlantic City in July 2012, and that you attempted to kiss her, that she struggled to fend you off before you stopped, and that on the drive back from Atlantic City you again put your hand between her legs; and
  • That other incidents of unwelcome physical conduct occurred, including holding one complainant’s hand and playing with her hair.

The bi-partisan Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance today unanimously recommended that Assemblyman Vito Lopez be removed as Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Housing and forfeit his seniority after reviewing allegations of sexual harassment against him. The findings were delivered to Speaker Sheldon Silver who said he would immediately implement the recommendations.

“The bi-partisan Committee on Ethics and Guidance today delivered to me a report signed by all eight of its members finding that Assemblymember Vito Lopez violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy,” said Silver. “I have reviewed the report and will fully implement its recommendations. The members of the committee have fulfilled their obligation to independently and thoroughly review these allegations, and I thank them for their hard work.”

In its report to Speaker Silver, the committee found that Lopez created a hostile workplace which included both verbal and physical sexual abuse and determined that his response was not credible.

In a letter of admonition to Assemblyman Lopez, the Speaker said that he has accepted the findings of the committee and will fully implement its recommendations, including:

  • Removing Lopez as Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Housing and banning him from any other committee chairmanship or leadership position;
  • Reducing Lopez’s staff allocation through attrition to the amount reserved for a first term member and forfeiting his seniority in the Assembly;
  • Requiring the Assemblyman to undergo supplemental sexual harassment training; and
  • Prohibiting Lopez from employing staff under 21 years old or interns in his Assembly offices.

“The Assembly has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment and we are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for all our employees,” said Silver. “The Committee on Ethics and Guidance has been diligent in thoroughly and fairly investigating the allegations made in this case and I will immediately implement its recommendations.”

Pursuant to Assembly Rules, the Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance is made up of an equal number of majority and minority members. The committee, chaired by Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, includes four Democrats and four Republicans.

View the letter below: