NEW YORK (AP) - A New York district attorney says he has completed his investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and the lawmaker's conduct was "alarming" but not criminal.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan acted as a special prosecutor to look into claims made by female members of the Brooklyn Democrat's staff. He says he did more than 50 interviews and found Lopez's conduct was inappropriate. But he said there was no basis to conclude a chargeable offense was committed. Donovan also admonished higher-level state officials that he said allowed Lopez's behavior through secret settlements and confidentiality.
Meanwhile, the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics found Lopez's actions violated the public trust. Women complained of harassment by Lopez and the commission said it found that Lopez rewarded workers who tolerated his behavior and punished those who rejected his attentions.
The scandal cost Lopez his leadership role. His lawyer called the news a welcome end to the saga.
Donovan lambasted the New York State Assembly for approving secret harassment settlements. He said it "apparently encouraged him to continue his inappropriate conduct." But Donovan said the settlements were not criminal acts.
Lopez has denied harassing women.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's statement on the findings said: "As the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the Office of the Staten Island District Attorney found, staff in the Office of the State Comptroller performed its statutory responsibilities, consistent with long-standing policies and procedures. There is a need, however, for greater transparency and review for these legal payments. My office is taking steps to ensure this happens and is examining our existing policies to make any appropriate modifications."
Attorney Gloria Allred, the lawyer for two women in Albany's sexual harassment scandal have accused the Assembly leadership of worrying more about politics than pursuing sexual harassment claims against Assemblyman Lopez.
Allred wants reforms so no other women are victimized as political leaders seek confidential settlements.
The New York City National Organization for Women accused Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of a "shameful cover-up at great expense to all women."
Silver says he would handle the case differently now, but notes neither he nor his staff are accused of ethics violations. Silver says his actions "represented a good faith belief that the Assembly was acting in the interests of the victims."
Silver says he acknowledged last year it was "a mistake" not to immediately refer the complaints to the Assembly ethics committee, a mistake he says won't be repeated.
He repeated his call for Lopez to resign.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares says Wednesday he can't comment on what he called any "ongoing" public integrity investigations.
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