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Dan Collins

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Albany Sex Scandal Goes From Bad to Worse

Posted: 08/29/2012 10:22 am

If you live in New York, today you're probably asking whether your quality life is going to improve once Vito Lopez is no longer the Brooklyn Democratic Party leader.

Perhaps you're not.

If you've ever heard of Lopez at all, it's probably because of last week's sex scandal. The state legislature, in an unprecedented show of efficiency, censured Lopez for what the bipartisan ethics committee said was a long-running pattern of sexual harassment, ranging from thrusting his hand between a female worker's legs to repeatedly commenting on women employees' bodies, clothes and boyfriends.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also stripped Lopez of his committee chairmanship and barred him from employing any women under the age of 21. That was comforting for about five minutes.

Then we learned that Silver had spent $103,000 in June to secretly settle claims by two other women who had sexual harassment complaints against the powerful Brooklyn boss. The case was never referred to the ethics committee. The speaker simply came up with 100Gs of your taxpayer money to make the case go away.

In what passes for damage control in Albany, Silver said it was a mistake to cover up Lopez's initial sexual transgression. Lopez did penance by stepping down as Brooklyn boss.

So as it stands now, Silver is still the speaker and Lopez is still in the Assembly (annual salary $79,500 for a part-time job). And we know that besides education, prisons and health care, the state of New York also spends taxpayer money on hushing up cases involving women who've been tackled, grappled, groped or grossed-out by elected officials.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for an investigation of the secret payment by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, but it's hard to believe that another probe is going to change much in Albany.

Obviously, Vito Lopez should quit the legislature. And it sounds as if Silver should be right behind him.

 
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