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Ethics agency to ethics panel: release Lopez report or we will

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – A state ethics agency has fired a new round at a legislative ethics panel, saying it will release a report on a sexual harassment case involving a Brooklyn Assembly Democrat in two weeks if the legislative committee doesn’t go public with it by then.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, an agency home to numerous staffers loyal to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, noted that a 90-day timetable is winding down for making public its investigative findings about the taxpayer-funded settlement of sexual harassment cases against Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

The lawmaker, who lost his housing committee chairmanship and is no longer the powerful leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, has denied wrongdoing in the case brought by two former staff members. But the JCOPE report is reportedly filled with details about how he mistreated the women, as well as how a $103,000 cash settlement with the women was secretly approved by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The Assembly leader later said no such secret settlements will again be approved and that all such cases will go to the legislative ethics panel.

JCOPE sent its findings – essentially saying it had uncovered wrongdoing in the case -- to a joint Senate and Assembly ethics committee on February 13, starting a 90-day clock for the report to be made public by the Legislature.

“Pursuant to statutory mandate, if the Legislative Ethics Commission should fail to do so, the Joint Commission shall release the report in its entirety after the ongoing 90-day period provided for under the law,’’ the commission said in a statement today after the agency’s board emerged from a closed-door, executive session.

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