Cuomo says he won’t hurry the Vito Lopez investigation

Cuomo with his holiday gift. ()
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who publicly prodded his new ethics commission to investigate the allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez in August, declined to say today whether he is satisfied with the investigation's progress so far.

"I would be satisfied if [the Joint Commission on Public Ethics] performed the task they were supposed to perform," Cuomo said after a cabinet meeting in Albany.

"I don't want to put a timetable on it," he added, saying he would "leave it to them."

Lopez was accused of sexual harassment over the summer and stripped of his seniority and his Housing Committee chairmanship, but easily won his race for re-election last month, and is set to assume his longtime seat in the capital when the legislature reconvenes next month.

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In September, after reports that JCOPE would decline to pursue an investigation, Cuomo's spokesman issued a public statement urging the commission to conduct an inquiry, which is presumed to include the conduct of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who quietly authorized payments to the alleged victims. 

Cuomo referenced his own time as attorney general in his remarks today, citing the need to be deliberate in such sensitive investigations. "You want to be thorough and you want to be fair," he said, "You're talking about people's lives and their reputations so you want to know all the facts."

He said investigations often opened up new avenues as they proceeded, with chains of emails leading to other chains of emails—a process that's not always appreciated by an impatient public.

"They made it sound like I was on the south of France, you know, sunning myself," he said.

Asked if he thought Lopez should join the legislature next month, or if that might create a "circus," Cuomo said, "I think that's up to him and it's up to the findings that JCOPE or another body would make. It's either a personal decision for him, or a body has taken an action. And if no body has taken an action, it's up to him."

Cuomo said he would agree if JCOPE censured or recommended action against Lopez. "If that's what they said, then yes," he said.

But asked about the potential findings if JCOPE recommended actions against Silver, Cuomo said, "These are all big ifs."

"What if they say the New York Post fabricated the whole story, then what do we do?" he asked. "If, if, if. Let's get the report, see what it says, and we'll take it from there."

Cuomo was also asked about the potential for gun control legislation, in the wake of the shootings in Connecticut.

He said the public's plea was for government to "do something, please."

"They look to government to respond to a crisis," he said, adding, "I think what they're saying is put the politics aside…and pass a bill that makes progress, even if it's not a perfect bill."

Earlier, the governor joked about his holiday party with the Albany press corps last night, reminscing about their trip to the Adirondacks as a "bonding moment...when we saw each others' souls," and showed off the gift they had presented him: a mounted fish wearing a Santa hat.