Ex-Lopez Staffers Could Sue Shelly Silver Over Harassment Cover-Up: Report

By Aidan Gardiner on May 22, 2013 9:01am 

 Former Vito Lopez staffers may soon sue Sheldon Silver for covering up the Assemblyman's sexual harassment.
Former Vito Lopez staffers may soon sue Sheldon Silver for covering up the Assemblyman's sexual harassment.
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Getty Images/Daniel Barry

NEW YORK CITY — Two former Vito Lopez staffers have retained a lawyer in what could be the first step toward filing a lawsuit against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver over his handling of allegations that their boss sexually harassed subordinates, a report claims.

After an official investigation concluded last week that the state Legislature, under Silver's direction, paid two female staffers $103,000 to stay quiet about Lopez's crude come-ons, two other staffers believe they would not have been harassed had the speaker acted more aggressively, the New York Post reported.

"My clients would not have been sexually harassed had the Assembly and the speaker properly responded to the first complaints,” Kevin Mintzer, representing ex-staffers Chloe Rivera and Victoria Burhans, told the Post.

"My clients are actively considering [suing silver] and now that the investigations have concluded we would expect a decision about it in the near future," Mintzer added.

The Legislature's Joint Commission on Public Ethics released a report last week detailing Lopez's harassment and the Assembly's handling of it.

The Brooklyn Assemblyman forced staffers to endure a litany of inappropriate comments and contact, including ordering staffers to touch tumors on his neck, shoulder, and armpit, according to the 70-page report. He also demanded that female staffers wear more revealing clothing and even offered to pay for it. He also groped and touched staffers on trips and in his office, the report says.

Once, a subordinate got pink eye after he forced her to put eye drops in his infected eye.

Wednesday's legal threat comes on the heels of Lopez's resignation from the Assembly and Silver's pledges to reform the legislative body's sexual harassment policies.

"The mistakes we made were ones of judgment and not borne out of any desire to shield Vito Lopez. What is clear is that we all have a responsibility to make sure we create a safe and respectful workplace," Silver said in a statement.

After his resignation, Lopez said he plans to run for city council.

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