ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The resignation of a New York state lawmaker embroiled in a sex harassment scandal became official a month earlier than he had originally planned.
Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn announced on Saturday that his resignation from the 53rd Assembly District seat was to be effective as of 9 a.m. Monday. He faced possible expulsion from the Legislature amid sexual harassment allegations. The allegations against him include asking young female staffers to massage him and join him in hotel rooms.
The surprise announcement came just a day after the 72-year-old Democrat defied demands by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign immediately. Instead, Lopez had announced last week that he would resign at the end of the legislative session on June 20 to become a candidate for the New York City Council.
“I expect to run a vigorous campaign on the issues facing the citizens of my community,” Lopez had said in a statement “and hope to continue to serve them in the City Council.”
Lopez is banking on his constituents to support his bid, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn said his actions should drive all New Yorkers to come out and help support his opponent, Antonio Reynoso.
Reynoso called on Lopez to drop his campaign, saying he does not deserve to the privilege of representing Brooklyn and Queens on the council.
Speaking Monday, Cuomo said Lopez made the right decision.
“I think for Vito Lopez, the appropriate action was an immediate resignation, and after some fits and starts, that’s where it wound up,” the governor said.
Cuomo also weighed in on the handling of the case. Speaker Silver took heat for authorizing a secret $103,000 settlement to a pair of Lopez accusers in June, before Lopez was censured following the two additional harassment allegations.
“How was it handled? How should it have been handled? Can it be handled better? I think it’s an appropriate level of discussion,” Cuomo said. “How does the Assembly handle complaints of sexual harassment is an important topic.”
Last week, a state ethics report looking into accusations of sexual harassment at the hands of Lopez found the embattled assemblyman did not violate any laws. A special prosecutor found “alarming” actions by Lopez, but no crime.
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