For Immediate Release:
May 16, 2013
Susan Lerner, 212-691-6421
Common Cause Statement on JCOPE and DA Investigations of Vito Lopez
In response to reports from JCOPE and the Staten Island District Attorney into Vito Lopez and the Assembly leadership's handling of sexual harassment complaints against him, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY released the following statement:
It is obvious from both reports that the Assembly took every measure possible to avoid engaging in a proper investigation in compliance with its own sexual harassment procedures in order to protect Vito Lopez. In so doing, the Assembly leadership willfully ignored the public interest, as well as the needs of the victims, and permitted Mr. Lopez to continue his misconduct. The first set of victims complied with requests from the Human Resources department as directed, yet Assembly counsel repeatedly offered excuses as to why they would not investigate, despite a direct request from the victims' counsel to do so. There was no confusion, merely a cover-up. It is outrageous that in the halls of government, lawmakers displayed such obvious disdain for the law.
Bottom line: Albany cannot police itself. We need independent oversight to protect innocent people and uphold the standards of the law. Based on the Assembly's shameful conduct in this matter there is no guarantee that the leadership would behave any differently in the future. We question whether Assembly Speaker Silver has absorbed the lessons of any of the various sexual harassment/abuse scandals, and call on him to provide justification for why he should continue to lead the conference. We call on the Assembly Majority to hold a public leadership vote so that their constituents can see where they stand and that they take seriously the leadership and staff's abrogations of responsibility.
Common Cause/NY further urges the Legislative Ethics Committee to right the wrongs of the Assembly by recommending expulsion for Vito Lopez. We also urge the Assembly to rescind the confidentiality agreement which should never have been included in the first place, and serves no purpose but to muzzle the victims while Mr. Lopez hurls attacks against their character.
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.