Civil Suits Name Assembly Speaker Silver, Vito Lopez

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York taxpayers are expected to pick up the bill in civil lawsuits aimed at the state Assembly and Speaker Sheldon Silver over a $103,000 secret settlement of sexual harassment claims.

Under New York law, the state defends elected officials who acted in their official capacity.

That’s expected to include lawsuits already filed involving the sexual harassment claims against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn. He’s accused by several women staffers of intimidation and unwanted advances.

Last year, Silver crafted a settlement using $103,000 in public money to end the first claims against Lopez. After the second set of claims was made, Silver censured Lopez and took away his perks of seniority.

Lopez resigned as Silver sought to oust him from office. Lopez is still running for City Council.

Silver has said he made mistakes and is seeking reforms.

Over the weekend, a Republican legislator blasted the use of state funds to cover the legal fees.

“I was completely outraged,” said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island).

Lopez paid $32,000 on top of the $103,000 of public money in the settlement crafted by Silver for the first women who accused Lopez of groping, sexual harassment, and retaliation when they refused him.

Since then, two other women have sued Lopez on sexual harassment allegations, and have also named Silver as a defendant.

The women, Victoria Burhans and Chloe Rivera, claimed Silver and his staff made no attempt to investigate Lopez or to try to protect the women on Lopez’s staff.

Malliotakis said as a result of the legal issues, taxpayers could be stuck with a six-figure bill.

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