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Assembly Announces Sex Harassment Reforms After Lopez Resigns

By Meredith Hoffman | May 20, 2013 5:40pm | Updated on May 20, 2013 7:45pm
 Vito Lopez resigned from New York State Assembly Monday morning.
Vito Lopez resigned from New York State Assembly Monday morning.
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New York State Assembly

WILLIAMSBURG — In response to the Vito Lopez sex scandal, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposed a series of reforms on Monday aimed at preventing future harassment of staff by elected officials.

"Serious mistakes were made in the New York State Assembly's handling of the sexual harassment accusations against former member Vito Lopez," Silver said in a statement.

"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."

The longtime North Brooklyn politician resigned Monday morning in response to a report that he sexually harassed several of his female staffers. The state Legislature paid two of the women $103,000 in a confidential settlement using taxpayer money.

"The actions I am announcing today are designed to make sure going forward this never happens again," said Silver.

Under Silver's reforms there would be no more secret settlements, reporting sexual harassment would be mandatory and an independent investigator would be appointed for all harassment complaints.

"We have worked hard to strengthen our policies concerning sexual harassment and to create a safe working environment, but while we fully thought we were acting in the interests of the victims and their desire for confidentiality, our errors in judgment resulted in the opposite effect," said Silver. "The strongest changes we can make will prevent future errors in judgment by creating an independent investigator to handle such cases and requiring mandated reporting, ensuring that any future allegation is quickly and fully investigated."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decided to wait for a general election to elect Lopez's successor, rather than calling an emergency election immediately, the Daily News reported.