Ethics Panel Appears to Launch Lopez Probe

The state’s ethics board has appeared to launch a full investigation into the sexual harassment scandal involving Assemblyman Vito Lopez

At a meeting of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics on Monday, a unanimous vote approved a full investigation — but officials refused to confirm its focus. It's widely believed the panel will focus on the sexual harassment scandal.

Under the rules of the ethics board they are not allowed to even discuss the subject of their investigation.

“The commission unanimously voted today to commence a substantial basis investigation,” group chair Janet DiFiore said following the private session.

The meeting was the second in less than a week following New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for the panel to investigate the sexual harassment scandal that centered on Lopez, who was censured over alleged sexual harassment charges last month.

In a separate incident, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver approved a secret settlement to pay out more than $100,000 to others who had accused Lopez of sexual harassment.

The panel met in executive session for nearly two hours, before disclosing the unanimous decision to go ahead with a probe.

Commissioner Marvin Jacobs pushed for the panel's work to be made public at today’s meeting, but the motion was struck down.

Good government groups have called the apparent probe into the Assembly’s sexual harassment scandal the ethic panel’s first real test.

The commissioner appointed by Senate Democrats, Ravi Batra, resigned over the weekend, saying he’d asked the FBI to investigate the inner workings of the ethics commission.