Former staffers of State Assemblyman Vito Lopez initially sought over $1 million in exchange for their silence about widespread sexual harassment allegations at the Brooklyn power broker's office, the Post reports. After extensive backroom negotiations, Lopez's ex-deputy chief-of-staff Rita Pasarell and co-plaintiff Leah Hebert settled for $135,080. Hebert and Pasarell resigned simultaneously on June 7th, the day the taxpayer-funded payout was approved by the Assembly.
Lopez initially wanted to fight the allegations, but after high-profile attorney Gloria Allred threatened to go public, the Assembly got Lopez to go along with the settlement, sources tell the Post. The tabloid also notes that in 2008, "while a law student in Albany, Pasarell accused local county legislator Brian Scavo of stalking her and making unwanted advances." Scavo was arrested, but a judge later dismissed the charges, and Scavo says, "She was trying to shake me down for money... She smelled money.”
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics is set to hold a special meeting on Tuesday to look into the scandal, and more former Lopez staffers are coming forward to dish to the press, albeit anonymously. "He is a terror to work for," one source tells the Daily News, which calls Lopez's office a harem. "Pretty much everybody who has gone through his office has been clear about how difficult he is." Another insider says, "He’s a dirty old man, born in the ‘30s. I witnessed several times him using his considerable size to lord over someone much smaller."
Lopez, 71, is accused of groping and kissing two of his staff members without their consent, and repeatedly harassing female employees with sexual comments, such as asking them not to wear bras. Sources also say he only hires attractive females, requests that they were short skirts and heels, and attend nightly functions to flirt with big shots. And one former staffer told the Times, "If you leave on bad terms, no one will hire you because they are afraid of what Vito will do to them."
Today Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes called for a special prosecutor to investigate Lopez, who also "serves" as boss of the Brooklyn Democratic party. "After review with my senior staff I determined that the support of the Kings County Democratic County Committee, led by Assemblyman Lopez, for my re-election campaign in 2009 and my upcoming re-election (2013) had the potential to create an appearance of impropriety requiring me to apply for the appointment of another District Attorney to conduct an investigation of the committee’s findings," the DA said in a statement.