The uber-creepy story of an Assemblyman who can’t keep his eyes and hands off of his employees, just got a little creepier.
Over the summer, Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) got himself caught up in a sexual harassment scandal involving complaints from two women regarding the Assemblyman’s unwanted advances. The accusations came after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had already paid two other women to keep quiet about similar accusations, using over $103,000 in taxpayer hush money.
The new found charges resulted in a harsh punishment from the Speaker, apparently feeling slighted for having already covered up the sexual harassment once. Lopez was unanimously rebuked by the Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance, stripping him of his Housing Committee chairmanship, cutting off funding and resources from the Assembly, and banning him from hiring employees under the age of 21.
Perhaps now we have a better understanding of the specific stipulation to ban Lopez from hiring employees under the age of 21. According to multiple sources, Lopez was even witnessed leering at a 14-year-old female intern, commenting on her “sexy attire”, and saying she should be emulated by the other ladies in his office.
There’s a creepy new accusation in the sexual-harassment probe of Assemblyman Vito Lopez — that he even leered at a 14-year-old intern and made comments about her sexy attire, sources told the The Post.
“He made comments about a 14-year-old intern, how attractive she dressed, and he wanted one of the female staffers to dress in a sexy way like this 14-year-old,” said one of several sources familiar with the ethics probe.
Lopez’s behavior around a minor was just one of the shocking findings to emerge from testimony submitted to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
Those same sources indicate that Lopez had a ‘hand fetish’ in which he would frequently ask female staffers to rub his hands because they were supposedly numb. They also reported that he is being investigated for booking a hotel room in Atlantic City, in which a female staffer was asked to spend the night with him in that same room.
Silver’s actions regarding this case along with the new allegations, raise some questions aside from the original cover up.
A letter from Silver to Lopez regarding the punishment in August pulled no punches, providing such details as how Lopez harassed one woman forcibly kissing her and putting his “hand as far up between her legs as you could go”. He also forced two women to continuously write to him about how much they loved their jobs and cared about him.
A New York Times report involving five former staffers indicates that women in Lopez’ office were frequently asked to wear short skirts and heels, while being asked to forego wearing bras. One woman indicated that the office atmosphere allowed for such a culture in which Lopez could repeatedly harass women on their ‘sexy attire’.
Was the underage intern subjected to such specific comments herself? Certainly having been placed in an atmosphere where repeated comments on attire were made, and one in which the 14-year-old herself was held up as an example due to her own “sexy attire”, it seems likely that she may have been subjected to similar requests.
The question now is, what did Silver know and when did he know it? Specifically punishing Lopez by preventing him from hiring younger employees (under 21) seems to acknowledge that the wandering-hands Assemblyman had a problem in this area. Could Silver have heard of the same accusations regarding underage interns?
Despite the scandal, Lopez was re-elected to the Assembly this past November.