The Assembly paid more than $100,000 in state funds to settle a legal claim in June, shortly before two of Assemblyman Vito Lopez’ employees filed sexual harassment charges against the longtime Brooklyn Democrat.
A record released late Monday by the Assembly shows a $103,080 payment for a settlement agreement was made on June 11. All identifying information is redacted in the record.
Lopez was formally censured and stripped of his seniority on Friday after an Assembly ethics committee found sexual harassment charges against him were “credible,” while his defense was “not credible.”
The New York Times reported Saturday, however, that a third accuser — and possibly a fourth — quietly settled with the Assembly earlier in the year in exchange for a payment and confidentiality agreement.
In releasing the payment record, Assembly Democrats spokesman Michael Whyland issued this statement:
The Assembly refers all charges of sexual harassment directly to the ethics committee. When complaints were made against Assemblymember Lopez in July they were immediately referred to the committee, which conducted a thorough investigation, culminating in the Speaker’s action on Friday. The only instance in which a complaint would not be handled by the ethics committee would be if a victim insisted for reasons of personal privacy that it not go before the committee. The Assembly would only keep such a matter confidential at the express insistence of the victim.
Lopez, meanwhile, issued a statement denying the charges earlier today. (You can read the full statement over at Capital Tonight.)
“The charges made against me are unfair and untrue,” Lopez said in the statement. “Never did I intentionally touch or attempt to kiss either of the complainants. I have never forced myself on anyone, nor would I.”
Here’s the Assembly voucher, which appears to detail the settlement with the first Lopez accuser. (Whyland said only one record of a settlement could be found in the Assembly’s records.)