For Immediate Release:
February 14, 2013
Susan Lerner, 212-691-6421
Common Cause/NY Statement on JCOPE Report
"Common Cause/NY is gratified that JCOPE has completed its probe and urges the Legislative Ethics Commission to act expediently. However, the success of the investigation must be judged on the breadth and substance of the report. The public must know the full extent of Mr. Lopez and the Assembly's wrong doing. The victims, those who were brave enough to come forward, and those who suffer silently, deserve no less."
In October, Common Cause joined with the National Organization of Women in New York City to rally in support of a wide ranging investigation with a clear list of expectations:
Expectations for JCOPE:
The investigation should be broad in scope in order to determine the duration and extent of Mr. Lopez's actions and the Assembly's responses to any extended course of misconduct. Sexual harassment is rarely an isolated incident, and this holds true in the case of Mr. Lopez where two sets of victims have already come forward with credible claims. News reports have suggested that Mr. Lopez has long operated with impunity and the public deserves accurate information addressing concerns that there may have been additional instances of misconduct, and if so, how they were addressed by the Assembly.
The investigation should be specific, covering in detail any and all acts perpetrated. The language of sexual harassment is too often vague and fails to paint an accurate picture of the abuse. Assembly Speaker Silver's letter of censure was quite detailed; this should be the model for JCOPE.
JCOPE should issue a report that clearly identifies who knew what, when they knew it and what they did about it. Due to the secretive manner in which the Assembly conducted itself, the public requires a full airing of the facts.
Assembly Speaker Silver, and Assembly Staff (past and present), must be held responsible for their role as appropriate under the Assembly's established policies on sexual harassment and ethics and the law. There must be recourse, which demonstrates that there are not two sets of rules: one of the powerful and well connected, and one for everyone else. Sexual harassment is a systemic problem, which must be pro-actively addressed by all employers and by the justice system. Cultural apathy is what creates the environment that allows sexual harassment to exist. It is unacceptable for political interests to be prioritized over the economic needs and safety of female employees.
The Assembly's policy on sexual harassment must be implemented consistently and with transparency and should penalize the perpetrators of harassment, not current or future victims. All employees should feel confident that the stated procedure that will be followed for investigation, and that reports will be handled in a fair and timely manner. Credible findings of sexual harassment should result in appropriate penalties. Barring interns or employees under the age of 21 from specific positions, thereby reducing opportunities for young women and men to gain valuable work experience or employment is not an acceptable penalty.
Office: Common Cause New York
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.