Democratic party assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, was abruptly stripped of his committee chairmanship and censured Friday after he was accused of sexually harassing two women who worked in his district office this summer.
Mr. Lopez, 71, is a longtime fixture of Brooklyn politics is now facing widespread calls for his resignation, after charges that he verbally harassed, groped and kissed two women without their consent.
“I hereby censure and admonish you on behalf of the New York State Assembly and its Members, and declare that your conduct with respect to this matter violates the Assembly’s Sexual Harassment/Retaliation Policy and is inconsistent with the standards of conduct to which Members of the Assembly should be held,” Mr. Sheldon Silver, an assembly speaker wrote.
The Assembly’s ethics committee — made up of four Democrats and four Republicans — ruled unanimously that claims that Mr. Lopez had verbally and physically harassed the employees were credible. “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,” Mr. Silver wrote, describing the committee’s findings.
He also said, “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.”
He said that Mr. Lopez “required” one of the women to travel with him to Atlantic City last month, where he attempted to kiss her, and 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.”
There are even reports stating that there was another incident which was settled this year in part with public funds, a confidentiality agreement and a mandatory sex harassment workshop were also included as part of that settlement.
“Any elected official who engages in such blatant sexual harassment and abuse of staff members has no business serving the public,” said Manhattan Borough President and 2013 mayoral candidate Scott Stringer in a statement.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn concurrs: “There must be zero tolerance of sexual harassment in all workplaces, always,” she said in a statement.
While no workplace is immune from sexual harassment, employees should seek legal assistance from experienced attorneys, like those at The Harman Firm to assist them in defending their rights.