New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez is facing additional sexual harassment claims made by former employees. Lopez was accused of multiple incidents of unwelcome physical conduct and sexual advances. The most recent charges of sexual harassment were made by two female interns earlier this month. Specifically, one of the female intern claims that he put his hand no her leg, and when she removed his hand, he put it on her hand between her upper thighs and put his hand up as far up between her legs as he could go.
As reported in the New York Daily News, this is not the first time that Lopez has been accused of sexual harassment. Earlier this year another employee accused him of sexual harassment but did not file a formal complaint. It was recently discovered that this employee, represented by attorney Gloria Allred, received a settlement in the amount of $103,080 in exchange for a confidentiality agreement, which required that the employee no longer pursue her allegations of sexual harassment. The employee was also relieved of her employment with the State Assembly. The Assembly Ethics Committee reportedly did not even know about this complaint until the two female interns recently filed their allegations of sexual harassment against the New York State Assemblyman earlier this month.
The settlement payment was characterized as money being paid for "Legal Services - Settlement" and for "Legal Attorney." It appears that the Assembly did not report this initial complaint of sexual harassment to the Ethics Committee because the woman did not make a formal charge. Instead, Allred, the woman's attorney, reportedly contacted counsel of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on behalf of the woman and set forth the allegations of sexual harassment against Lopez.
Accordingly to the Assembly's written policy regarding sexual harassment complaints, the Assembly would have been required to report the sexual harassment complaint to the Assembly Ethics Committee if the female employee had filed a formal complaint.
In the wake of these recent sexual harassment charges, many of Lopez' Assembly colleagues are making strong statements about Lopez's alleged misconduct and calling for his resignation. In response, Lopez accused his fellow Assemblymen of railroading him. On Monday, Lopez publicly responded to the sexual harassment charges, stating, "The charges made against me are unfair and untrue. Never did I intentionally touch or attempt to kiss either of the complainants. I have never forced myself on anyone, nor would I."
In light of the new information that a complaint of sexual harassment was made and settled unbeknownst to the Assembly Ethics Committee, many believe that a full probe of this settlement will be conducted, as it appears that taxpayer funds may have been used in the payment.