4:34 pm Aug. 27, 2012
On a conference call this afternoon, after touting the state's improved credit rating, Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked if he was bothered by a New York Times report over the weekend that the Assembly had used public money to settle a sexual harassment complaint against Vito Lopez earlier this year.
"All I know is what I've read in the papers," said Cuomo. "I don't know that we have enough facts or information to come to any conclusion on what the Assembly did or didn't do. I don't know if there was a complaint by a person, if the person wanted confidentiality. I just have no idea what the facts of the situation are."
Lopez was censured by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Friday and stripped of his chairmanship, after a state ethics panel unanimously found that complaints by two employees were credible. The letter from Silver did not mention the previous settlement. On Sunday, Cuomo called for Lopez's resignation, if the allegations were proven to be true.
Asked later by New York Post reporter Erik Kriss if he was bothered, generally, by the idea that the state would use public funds to settle such misdeeds by public officials, Cuomo said it wasn't so uncommon.
"Well that happens all the time, right?" he replied. "You have a car accident. The state driver was negligent, the state pays damages. So the state often pays for damages of public officials. Your question Erik is, 'Well how about in this case with these facts, is it proper?' I don't know the facts."
Kriss tried to distinguish between a car accident and a willful act by a legislator who had undergone training to prevent such a misdeed.
"Yeah, but that's a lot of ifs," said Cuomo. "You know, you'd have to know the facts. And I don't know the facts on this situation. And it's the kind of situation where you do need to know the facts."
Kriss had prefaced his question by saying he was going to ask about the same topic as the other tabloid reporters, leading Cuomo to joke: "Are you saying, Erik, that the Post follows the News?"
After he answered the questions, he clarified.
"I was kidding you about the Post following the News, you know," he said. "I don't want you to get sensitive."
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