Friday, August 31, 2012

Vito Lopez, Shelly Silver, and the harassment of women

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 5:38 PM

I feel like I’m reading the same story over and over, just with different perps, different victims, and different kinds of abuse: Jerry Sandusky, Catholic priests, and now Vito Lopez, the New York Assembly member accused of sexually harassing women staff members.

And once again, the reaction from higher-ups is to protect the accused. Aren’t these guys learning anything?

The Assembly’s ethics committee has found that Lopez harassed two of his staff members, groping them, kissing them, and verbally harassing them. But that’s not the entire scandal.

The New York Times reports that earlier in the year, the Assembly leadership had learned of other complaints about Lopez — and rather than turning those complaints over to the ethics committee, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver agreed to a settlement with the women, paying them with state funds. Silver, the Times said, required Lopez to attend a sexual harassment workshop.

In its own investigation, the Times interviewed women who told of similar harassment, of Lopez suggesting that they come to work without bras, that they wear short skirts, telling one woman to leave her shirt partially unbuttoned so that he could look down it.

Silver has apologized for handling two of the complaints himself rather than turning them over to the ethics committee, and he says he now realizes that was a mistake.

He didn’t alert the ethics committee, he says, because the women asked for confidentiality. Maybe that’s the case. But by paying the women, he in effect convicted Lopez — without a proper investigation. And if the women were telling the truth, he shielded Lopez, leaving other women on the staff vulnerable.

There are loud calls for Lopez’s resignation from the Assembly. So does Silver get off with an apology?

Just asking.

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