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Powerful pol loses post after harassment case
A powerful state assemblyman from Brooklyn has been stripped of his committee leadership post after an internal panel determined he violated the chamber’s sexual harassment policy.
Assemb. Vito Lopez, 71, (D-Brooklyn) will be removed as Housing Committee chairman, lose some of his staff, and lose his seniority – essentially, he will be treated as a first-year legislator – Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said.
Silver said he has accepted the recommendations of the Assembly’s Ethics Committee. Picking up from Silver's news release, the committee called for:
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 in a statement. “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.”
The watchdog group Common Cause applauded Silver's actions but said Lopez should resign his office altogether. Here's part of the statement from Common Cause's Susan Lerner:
"It is clear that Assembly Member Lopez should resign not only from the Assembly but also from his chairmanship of the Kings County Democratic Party."
The letter is posted in full below: Vito Lopez Letter 8-24-12