ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York's secretive ethics board has rejected an attempt by a minority of its members to reveal how it's handing a sexual-harassment scandal in the state Assembly.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics members say they were appalled by press reports indicating the board is avoiding the case.
Members are also criticizing a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office about the consequences if the board decided against investigating a private settlement authorized by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo responded by saying: "In response to public reports and inquiries today, we have no reason to believe that JCOPE is not acting appropriately and diligently and conducting a full, thorough investigation, using all its legal authority, of claims of sexual harassment against Assemblyman Vito Lopez and the circumstances surrounding their handling. As far as rumors to the contrary suggesting that JCOPE is not investigating the settlement payments and the circumstances under which they were made, we believe they are just that – rumors. However, if such rumors are true, 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. Either way, the public will know the facts and answers to the questions that have been raised."
Silver approved a $103,000 agreement in June to end sexual-harassment claims against Democratic Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
The board also indicated at a meeting Monday that an internal rift is a threat to the continued operation of the commission.
A special prosecutor is already investigating the settlement and harassment claims against Lopez.