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Ethics panel to release Lopez report if lawmakers don't

Assemb. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn)

Assemb. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) Photo Credit: Bryan Pace, 2001

ALBANY -- The state ethics panel said Tuesday it would release its report on sexual harassment allegations involving Assemb. Vito Lopez in mid-May if lawmakers fail to release it themselves.

But the warning clashes with legislators' promise to withhold the report until a special prosecutor determines whether criminal charges should be filed against the once-powerful Brooklyn politician.

The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics forwarded a report to the state Legislative Ethics Commission in February. Though the panel didn't comment on its investigation at the time, its members previously acknowledged they were looking at allegations that Lopez had groped and harassed employees. The report has not been released.

Separately, Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan was named as special prosecutor to launch a criminal probe.

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Great Neck), co-chairman of the Legislative Ethics Commission, previously said his panel would not release the Lopez report until Donovan completes his investigation. Lavine declined to comment Tuesday.

The scandal erupted last summer when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) disclosed he approved paying $103,000 in public money to settle claims by some former Lopez staffers.

Lopez paid an additional $32,000, though he has denied the accusations. Silver has acknowledged he mishandled the case by not sending the complaints to the Assembly Ethics Committee.

Lopez has rebuffed numerous calls to resign, although he was stripped of a committee chairmanship and lost his outside post as chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Committee.

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