ALBANY, N.Y.---The sexual harrassment scandal surrounding Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez and the state's response to it continues to unfold, after a member of New York's ethics board quit Friday evening, shortly after calling for a federal probe into what he calls corruption on the board.
Ravi Batra's resignation comes after the New York Times reported Friday that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (Jcope) has declined to investigate Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's paying out a $103,000 settlement in the harassment case, using tax payer money.
That report then prompted response from Governor Cuomo, who is threatening his own investigation.
In the letter, Batra states he felt compelled to resign over principle, saying, "I wish you well and hope that my resignation aids in focusing attention on the need for proper policies and practices to effectuate honest and independent ethics enforcement so as to actually restore public confidence in government and public service. I welcome a subpoena from a federal prosecutor or a Moreland Act-empowered special prosecutor to share my experiences and impressions about the reality of Jcope in practice."
Jcope itself was created by Governor Cuomo, as apart of his sweeping ethics reform.
Barbara Bartoletti, the legislative director for the League of Women Voters, calls the scandal a big black eye for the NYS Legislature.
"Governor Cuomo came into office saying he was going to fix Albany, and he cannot afford not to be very aggressive with this," she says.
In a statement Friday, Governor Cuomo's spokesperson, Josh Vlasto, saying, "We believe it would be unconscionable for any legislative appointees to JCOPE to block such investigation. If they are, the Governor will appoint a Moreland Act Commission to conduct an investigation that would include these matters."
"I agree with the Governor that we do need a Moreland Commission," says Assemblyman Jim Tedisco. "But I don't agree with him that he has to study it. He has to do it."
Tedisco and Bartoletti say the bottomline is Vito Lopez should have already been forced to resign.
"We have to have a Moreland Commission to actively see what everyone's part in this whole situation is," says Tedisco. "The payoff, the harassment and the cover-up."
"It doesn't matter which party it is when you have accusations of this sort," adds Bartoletti. "The public just sees it as that "swamp" they consider the legislature is. Mr. Cuomo's promise was to clean that up and to fix Albany, so he has to be very aggressive."