New York Dem accused of sexual harassment resigns
Democratic New York Assemblyman Vito Lopez, accused of several instances of sexual harassment, resigned from the state assembly Monday, leaving behind a tarnished reputation and a number of fellow Democrats who were either directly implicated in his scandal or damaged by association.
Lopez, 71, is accused of sexually harassing eight women who worked for him in the assembly, according to an ethics report released last Wednesday. Lopez reportedly touched and groped at least some of the women.
Lopez announced Friday that he would resign at the end of the New York legislative session in June, but outrage from Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the threat of official expulsion from the assembly led to Lopez’s early resignation Monday.
“As the governor said, one month was unacceptable, as was one more day,” a Cuomo spokeswoman said, noting that the governor felt an immediate resignation from Lopez would be the “best end to this ugly chapter.”
The accusations against Lopez came to light last August, when Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver revealed them. Silver, the Assembly speaker since 1994, has since come under fire for failing to protect female Assembly staffers and for allowing Lopez to continue in his legislative duties for months after the accusations were made public.
“The sordid details of how a once-powerful Brooklyn politician pawed, groped and taunted young women on his staff are more than an indictment of one politician, Assemblyman Vito Lopez,” The New York Times editorial board wrote Friday in a piece calling for Lopez’s expulsion from the Assembly and for Silver’s replacement as speaker. “They provide a galling picture of the way Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker and one of New York’s top legislative leaders, failed to provide an environment in which young women could work without fear of being sexually assaulted by a bully like Mr. Lopez.”
Lopez, whose nameplate was reportedly removed from his Assembly desk Monday morning, is still prepared to run for the New York City Council, despite the vocal objections of many other city Democrats, including Council speaker and 2013 mayoral front-runner Christine Quinn.