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State funds said used to settle sex suits

Aug. 28, 2012 at 11:27 AM

ALBANY, N.Y., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Records indicating the speaker of the New York Assembly used public money to settle a harassment suit against a fellow member has created an uproar.

The records, released Monday by the Assembly, show Speaker Sheldon Silver authorized a secret payment of $103,800 earlier this year to settle sexual harassment claims against fellow Democrat Vito J. Lopez, The New York Times reported.

Lopez was censured Friday by the Assembly after the body's own investigation supported harassment allegations by two women who worked in Lopez' office.

The previous claim was brought by at least one other woman who worked for Lopez. The assemblyman also contributed an undetermined amount of money he controlled.

Lopez said in a statement Monday the charges were "unfair and untrue."

Lopez is one of the most powerful Democrats in the Legislature. He is a strong ally of Silver, who has been speaker for 15 years.

Silver declined to make a statement about the secret payment.

In 2003, one of Silver's top aides pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct. Scandals involving interns and assembly members received public attention in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

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