NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes wants a special prosecutor to look into sexual harassment claims against Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
Hynes said in a statement that he wants the special prosecutor because the Kings County Democratic County Committee – headed by Lopez- supported Hynes’ re-election campaign in 2009 and his upcoming 2013 campaign.
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Hynes said that support “had the potential to create an appearance of impropriety,” so he called for a special prosecutor.
The Assembly Ethics Committee on Aug. 24 censured Lopez on charges he sexually harassed female staffers. The women were quietly paid $135,000 – including $103,000 from a taxpayer-paid Assembly fund – to settle the claims.
State Sen. Tony Avella told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello Thursday that self-preservation keeps Assembly Democrats from criticizing Silver.
“I think it’s important for every elected official when a situation comes up like this, to speak out. That’s the only way we’re gonna change the attitude in Albany,” Avella said.
Lopez has said he won’t seek another term as chairman of the powerful Democratic Committee. He has denied harassing female staffers, who claim he propositioned them and urged them to dress provocatively. He has refused to resign his legislative seat.
Meanwhile, the government watchdog group Citizen’s union is making a formal complaint to the Ethics Commission demanding it not only investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Lopez, but also probe the secret way tax payer money was used to fund a settlement for the women making the charges.
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“For there to have been such damning allegations and a quiet settlement, that not even the Assembly Ethics Committee knew about, just raises all kinds of questions about why Speaker Silver chose to handle it, essentially by himself and very quietly and confidentially,” said executive director Dick Dadey.