1:45 pm Aug. 24, 20121
Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the powerful Brooklyn Democratic boss, has been removed as chairman of the Housing Committee in the Assembly, stripped of his seniority and forced to undergo training after an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed two legislative employees beginning in June of this year.
The decision was announced by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who agreed with the report of the Assembly's ethics committee, which found the allegations credible and determined that Lopez's reponse to them was "not credible."
Lopez will also not be allowed to have any interns work in his office, nor be allowed to employ anyone under 21 years old, according to the bipartisan Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance, whose recommendations are being implemented "in full" by Silver.
Silver sent Lopez a letter, dated August 24, that enumerated the specific allegations against the lawmaker: "[Y]ou 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 can go."
On a trip to Atlantic City, a female staffer "struggled to fend you off before you stopped" trying to kiss her, the letter said.
The report also found that Lopez required his staff to express their adoration to him, in letters.
Lopez "required them to write to you about how much they loved their jobs and cared about you and that you criticized their notes for being insufficiently effusive."
Lopez, who was elected to the Assembly in 1984, will now have his staff reduced "to that of a first-term member," the committee ordered.
Silver's action immediately led to calls for Lopez's resignation as chairman of Brooklyn's Democratic Party from Lincoln Restler, a state committeeman and longtime opponent of the assemblyman.
UPDATE: Representative Jerrold Nadler, who is sympathetic to the reform (anti-Lopez) Democrats in Brooklyn, just called on Lopez to resign as party leader in Brooklyn.