I. SUMMARY OF INVESTIGATION
On August 24, 2012, the Assembly Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance (the
“Assembly Ethics Committee”)
issued a report which concluded that Assemblymember Vito J.
Lopez (“Lopez”) had engaged in repeated conduct
toward two former female staff members thatviolated the Assembly
Sexual Harassment/Retaliation Policy and recommended that theSpeaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, impose specific sanctions againstLopez.
In response to the report, on the same day, the Speaker adopted the Assembly Ethics
recommendations and took formal action against Lopez, including removingLopez from his position as Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Housing, a positionhe held for more than 15 years.On August 25, 2012, the New York Times reported that the Assembly and Lopez had previously entered into a confidential settlement agreement with two other former female staff members who had also alleged that Lopez had subjected them to improper behavior of a sexualnature. Subsequent reporting by the media indicated that the Assembly and Lopez hadcollectively paid more than $100,000 pursuant to a confidential settlement agreement and that
the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) and the Office of the State Comptroller (“OSC”)
had been consulted during settlement negotiations by counsel for the Assembly. On August 28,2012, Lopez resigned his position as the Chair of the Kings County Democratic Party.In light of these events and other information, on September 10, 2012, the JointCommission on Public Ethics (
the “Commission”) commenced an investigation into whether
Lopez violated the State
ethics laws with respect to his treatment of certain female staff members, as well as with respect to the management and disposition of certain complaintsagainst him. The investigation included the issuance of 49 subpoenas, interviews of more than45 witnesses, and review of the more than 20,000 documents produced.
The investigation established that in December 2011 and January 2012, two of Lopez’s
employees made complaints to the Office of Counsel for the Assembly Majority. Without anyinvestigation by the Assembly or a referral to the Assembly Ethics Committee, these complaintswere resolved on June 6, 2012, through a confidential settlement agreement negotiated betweencounsel for the Assembly Majority, counsel for Lopez, and counsel for the employees (the
“Settlement Agreement”). In April 2012, while engaged in the settlement negotiations, Lopez
hired two women to replace the first set of complainants, and subjected the new employees tosimilar, if not more, egregious mistreatment. In July 2012, six weeks after Lopez signed theSettlement Agreement, these two women complained to the Office of Counsel for the AssemblyMajority. These complaints, unlike the first two, were promptly referred to the AssemblyEthics Committee, which, after an investigation, issued the August 24, 2012 report to theAssembly Speaker.
The Assembly Ethics Committee is a bipartisan committee composed of four Democrats and four Republicansand meets on an
basis. The Assembly Ethics Committee
s jurisdiction includes, among other areas,matters that fall under the Sexual Harassment/Retaliation Policy.