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Vito Lopez, Brooklyn assemblyman who resigned after sexual harassment scandal, dies of cancer

Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn assemblyman who resigned in

Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn assemblyman who resigned in 2013 after accusations of sexual harassment of female staff members, has died of cancer, his longtime attorney said. Photo Credit: Bryan Pace, 2001

Vito Lopez, the longtime Brooklyn power broker and state assemblyman who resigned in 2013 after multiple accusations of groping and sexually harassing young female staff members, has died of cancer.

Lopez, 74, died after being admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center late Monday evening, Frank Seddio, the Brooklyn Democratic chairman and a longtime Lopez friend, said in a statement.

"Vito Lopez was my friend for over 30 years and I am saddened by his death. His legacy is the work he did for the poorest residents of Bushwick and Ridgewood, where thousands of people live in affordable housing on lots that were once burned out and garbage-filled," Seddio said.

As the force behind the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, Lopez was "the foremost champion of affordable housing," Seddio said.

But Seddio also touched on Lopez's scandals while asking for public-opinion leniency.

"As he faces the judgment on the value of his life, my hope is that all the good work that he did will outweigh the unfortunate way in which his career ended," Seddio said.

Lopez, who had battled leukemia for several years, was a longtime force in Democratic politics. He was first elected to the Assembly in 1984 and eventually became chairman of the influential Housing Committee, wielding control over large pots of state money. He became Brooklyn Democratic leader in 2006 and a sought-after campaign endorser.

His 2013 resignation came after female staff members accused him of groping and other unwanted sexual advances.

A year earlier, an Assembly ethics panel censured him after investigating complaints from two of his former staffers. Then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver subsequently acknowledged he had approved a confidential agreement for $135,000 ($103,000 in public money, the rest from Lopez) to settle previous claims by two other staffers.

That prompted separate civil and criminal investigations that found Lopez forced physical contact with female staffers, as well as pressuring them to give him hand massages, send him flirty messages and stay in the same hotel room as his on overnight trips. Peers immediately called for his ouster.

Staring at the prospect of becoming the first Assembly member expelled in 93 years, Lopez resigned on the eve of the scheduled vote.

Last February, the two former staffers who sparked the ethics panel inquiry agreed to accept $580,000 to settle their lawsuit against Lopez and the state.

With Gary Dymski

and Emily Ngo

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