Vito Lopez Says He Hasn’t Been Questioned in Harassment Probes

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Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn assemblyman who became embroiled in a sexual-harassment scandal that made major headlines across the state last year, made his return to the assembly chamber on Wednesday.

Lopez, the subject of two separate investigations for his conduct, declined to comment on the status of either probe but knocked the press coverage of allegations against him while acknowledging he has been dealing with “major health issues.”

“I’m not commenting on the investigations and I have not yet been questioned by either of them,” Lopez told reporters from his assembly chair. “They’re ongoing and seemingly you know more about it than I do.”

In August, Lopez was stripped of his committee chairmanship and seniority after he was censured by the Assembly Ethics Committee, which found allegations that he sexually harassed two employees were “credible.” Later it was revealed that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, had previously authorized a settlement with two other Lopez accusers that had included a non-disclosure agreement.

Lopez has denied any wrongdoing. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics is believed to have launched an investigation into Lopez and Silver, as has a special prosecutor in New York City.

The assemblyman, who has held his office since 1985, said he does not have plans to resign and that he intends, at this time, to serve out his two-year term. But he acknowledged he has been considering leaving the assembly for “seven or eight years” and that many things will weigh into his decision, including his age, his failing health and his reluctance to appear to substantiate allegations against him.

Lopez said he can still be effective, even if he no longer has his committee chairmanship and has a drastically reduced staff. He declined to say whether he would have supported Silver in a vote last week.

“When I came here, I came here with a worker and a half. I’ve never been with the thrills of it. I have an office,” Lopez said. “It’s smaller but it’s pretty nice. And my license plate number has gone from 20 to 137. I guess that’s a setback, but that was never my issue.”

He also pleaded for more “context” from the press when writing about allegations against him. Lopez was reelected with 90 percent of the vote in his district, he noted.

“It would be really nice … (if) the press comes and visits the community, visits the accomplishments, looks at the bills that were passed and somehow puts that into some context. But that would mean doing something that is balanced.”

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