The Staten Island district attorney announced Wednesday that he has completed his investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Brooklyn Assemb. Vito Lopez by concluding that Lopez did not commit a crime in Brooklyn, and the Assembly's payment of $103,000 to settle charges against him did not violate criminal laws.
"The manner in which the settlement was reached and the payment was made did not implicate any criminal conduct; the payout by the Assembly followed the normal route by which employment claims are paid, and the contribution Assembly Member Lopez made to the settlement came from his personal funds," Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. said in a statement.
The district attorney also concluded, however, that complaints against Lopez should have been referred to the Assembly's Standing Committee on Ethics, and the proper procedure might have prevented additional incidents of harassment by Lopez. The handling of the allegations by the Assembly and Speaker Sheldon Silver "fell short of what the public had a right to expect," Donovan said.
He said the Assembly's decision to keep the settlement confidential was designed primarily to limit its own damages. "That goal outweighed any interest in investigating or disciplining Assembly Member Lopez or in preventing similar occurrences in the future," the district attorney wrote.
Donovan was appointed to investigate Lopez's actions and the payout when Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes recused himself. A legislative report on the Lopez settlement has been withheld pending the conclusion of Donovan's probe, but is expected to be released Wednesday. ___
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