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Lopez to Resign From Assembly as Expulsion Looms

5:37 PM, May 17, 2013   |    comments
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By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief

ALBANY,NY-- Disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez said Friday he will resign from office next month, less than a day after his colleagues said they would seek to expel him.

Lopez said he would resign at the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled for June 20. He is accused of sexually harassing his young female aides, though he was not criminally charged.
Lopez, 71, said he will run for New York City Council in November.

"Because the citizens of my district voted me back into office last November by an overwhelming majority, I feel obligated to serve out this session of the Assembly," Lopez said in a statement. "I therefore announce that as of June 20, the last day of the session, I resign my position."

There was no immediate comment on whether Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, would move forward with expulsion proceedings against Lopez, the former Brooklyn Democratic chairman.

Silver indicated Thursday night that efforts to expel Lopez would begin Monday.

Silver, who was criticized in an ethics report for his handling of sexual harassment allegations against Lopez, was expected to introduce a resolution Friday asking the Assembly Ethics Committee to recommend sanctions for Lopez.

Those sanctions were expected to include expulsion, and the Assembly was set to vote Monday on the resolution.

"Given that an exhaustive investigation has already occurred by two public agencies, (Silver) expects the committee to be able to act quickly and to bring this matter back to the full Assembly with its recommendations for prompt resolution," Silver's spokesman Mike Whyland said Thursday.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics detailed several years' worth of harassment allegations against Lopez, a once-powerful lawmaker, and found he violated the Public Officers Law.

Silver and his top aides, meanwhile, were knocked by the committee for not referring two initial allegations against Lopez to the Assembly Ethics Committee and for inserting a confidentiality agreement into a settlement.

There is precedent for expelling a member of the Legislature. Former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens, was kicked out of the chamber by his colleagues in 2010 after he was convicted of a misdemeanor assault charge against his girlfriend.

But in the Assembly, no member has been expelled since the 1920s - because a group of lawmakers were members of the Socialist Party.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday reiterated his call from Thursday that Lopez should be ousted.

"I think this Assembly should make a clear statement that we don't tolerate that behavior," Cuomo said on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public radio show.

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