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Lopez reactions address -- and ignore -- key points

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Looking for some countering spins on today's Vito Lopez matter? You'll get the picture here:

 

Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

“Speaker Sheldon Silver has stated that the actions that were taken represented a good-faith belief that the Assembly was acting in the interests of the victims, and that has not changed. A full review of the facts by both JCOPE and the Special Prosecutor has found that all actions by the Assembly were lawful and there was no basis for an ethics complaint against the Speaker or his staff.

However, as the Speaker stated in August, it was a mistake not to immediately refer the initial complaints to the Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance, one that will not be repeated. The Speaker is deeply committed to ensuring that all our employees are treated with respect and dignity. As to Assemblyman Lopez, sanctions have been imposed and the Speaker has called for him to step down from the Assembly. Given that the JCOPE investigation has found significant violations of the Public Officers Law by Assemblyman Lopez, Speaker Silver renews his call for him to resign.” 

New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox:

"Whether or not there were legal wrongdoings on the part of Assemblyman Lopez or Speaker Silver is irrelevant. Vito Lopez's actions were morally and ethically reprehensible and totally unforgivable. Sexual abuse is not a partisan issue. Every member of the New York State Assembly, especially its Speaker, should be held to the highest moral and ethical standards.

Once again, Speaker Silver has lowered the bar; in this case, he even violated his own Assembly regulations. By silencing earlier victims of sexual abuse, both at the hands of Michael Boxley and Vito Lopez, Speaker Silver is directly responsible for their subsequent victims. We repeat our call for Vito Lopez to resign from the State Assembly and for Sheldon Silver to resign the Speakership."


Damien LaVera, spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:

“We appreciate the reports by JCOPE and District Attorney Donovan. As they make clear, the Office of the Attorney General was not asked to serve as counsel to the Assembly in this matter, nor was our office asked to approve the settlement agreement. Also as noted, consistent with longstanding policy that predates our administration, office lawyers provided a limited response to an informal inquiry, as well as a model settlement agreement that did not include a confidentiality clause. We have since revised internal office policies to make clear that even informal consultations are elevated when the circumstances merit it."


NOW-NYC President Sonia Ossorio:

“Vito Lopez subjected his female employees to breathtaking and horrifying sexual harassment for years on end. Although JCOPE only began its investigation into allegations dating back to 2010, given the flagrant conduct described in the report it would seem highly likely that Lopez is a repeat harasser whose crimes pre-date the scope of the inquiry. The shocking details of psychological and physical abuse are absolutely outrageous. There are incidents that cannot be described as mere harassment, in many cases the conduct is so physically intrusive any sane person would describe it as an attack.

The isolation and violation that Vito Lopez's victims suffered was further maximized by the Assembly's abject failure to follow its own sexual harassment procedures which require a referral to the Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance once a complaint has been filed. It's clear that the Assembly leadership did everything in its power, not to engage a proper investigation and instead diverted the victims to a secret settlement to protect Mr. Lopez. In so doing, they allowed Mr. Lopez to harass successive employees while rendering his previous victims mute as their abuser continued to harass other women.

It's clear that neither the public interest, nor the interests of justice, were served. As is obvious, the Assembly engaged in a shameful cover-up at great expense to all women who live and work in New York State. This raises serious question about what other complaints the Assembly may have mishandled. Despite the fact that no criminality was found, Mr. Lopez is clearly unfit for office and the Assembly should take a no confidence vote immediately. Anyone who does not oppose Mr. Lopez's rumored political aspirations for City Council risks alienating all people who support safety and human dignity for women.’’

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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