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Emails Show AG's and Comptroller's Offices Discussed Lopez Harassment Case

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Assemblyman Vito Lopez Assemblyman Vito Lopez (Azi Paybarah)

There was greater and earlier discussion than previously reported between the state comptroller's office and the Assembly majority's counsel as he sought advice in quietly settling a $103,000 sexual harassment claim against a Democratic assemblyman, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.

The emails, released by the comptroller's office, were obtained under the state Freedom of Information Law and show more discussion involving attorneys for the Assembly's Democratic majority, and the Democratic offices of the comptroller and attorney general.

The comptroller's office also confirmed two of its staff attorneys who provided technical assistance in the settlement have been subpoenaed by the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, although the comptroller's office had already promised its cooperation.

"The comptroller's legal staff was not a party to the negotiations, nor did it evaluate the merits of the settlement," the office said Wednesday. "The Comptroller's office is presently examining statewide and internal processes to enhance transparency. Staff are fully cooperating with and providing necessary information to the entities looking at this settlement."

The emails released Wednesday show more conversations over a longer period of time than emails released by the attorney general's office and the Assembly when the scandal broke in late August. Two female staffers had accused Democratic Assemblyman Vito Lopez, of Brooklyn, with sexual harassment.

There was no immediate comment from the attorney general's office or Assembly majority offices.

The comptroller's and attorney general's offices said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, both Democrats, did not know of the proposed settlement sought by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The emails continue to show there was no approval of the settlement, but neither is there any rejection or questioning of the deal. At one point, an attorney general's office lawyer suggested a "model" settlement that contained no secrecy clause but wasn't used by the Assembly.

 

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