The state is shelling out $545,000 in taxpayer money to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by two one-time aides of former assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyer.
The settlement ends the court proceedings against Lopez, who an Assembly panel said groped, tried to kiss, and made lecherous comments to the two women, Victoria Burhans and Chloe Rivera. Lopez is on the hook for a mere $35,000 towards the settlement.
In a statement, Burhans and Rivera said they were glad to end two years of investigation and litigation.
“We are pleased to have reached a resolution,” they wrote. “We hope our ordeal will serve as a strong reminder to New York’s legislators that they are accountable for their behavior. All women should be treated with respect and dignity, not as sex objects or as problems to be handled and silenced.”
A state ethics panel stripped Lopez of his seniority and housing committee chairmanship, in 2012 costing him thousands a year. He stepped down from his post as Brooklyn Democratic boss the following week, but he did not resign as assemblyman until 2013, ending 27 years in office. He ran a shadow campaign for Council that fall, making no public appearances, but raising money and putting his name on the ballot.
Now-indicted former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver drew flak in 2012 for secretly paying $100,000 in taxpayer cash as hush money to two other Lopez sexual harassment accusers.
In December, before the settlement, Lopez claimed to be too sick to attend a court deposition, but a New York Post report revealed he had attended the wedding of the granddaughter of a prominent Hasidic rabbi a month prior.
State officials still have to approve the settlement, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said.
Lopez and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
©2015 Community News Group
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