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Assemblyman Lopez Says He's Staying In Office Despite Harassment Claims

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) said Monday that he will be staying in the Assembly, even though he lost his committee chairmanship and seniority after a finding that he violated sexual harassment policies.

Lopez is almost 72 and has health issues, but said he does not want to walk away from the people he represents. He did not specify how long he plans to stay.

In August, the Assembly stripped Lopez of his chairmanship of the Committee on Housing and barred him from employing young people after harassment allegations by two female employees of the state Assembly were found to be "credible."

"There were multiple incidents of unwelcome physical conduct toward one complainant," Speaker Sheldon Silver wrote. "Wherein you put your hand on her leg, she removed your hand, and you then put your hand between her upper thighs, putting your hand as far up between her legs as you could go."

Lopez was also charged with forcing one of the women to go to Atlantic City with him, where he allegedly put the moves on her and tried to kiss her.

The Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance found he created a hostile workplace.

Lopez has said the harassment allegations are not true, and has called them "politically motivated."

Meanwhile, Speaker Silver took heat for authorizing a secret $103,000 settlement to a pair of Lopez accusers in June, before Lopez was censured following the two additional harassment allegations.

In September, Lopez expressed disdain for what he called "unethical or illegal leaks" about a the secret payout to his accusers. He said both the allegations and leaks were done "with the principle motive of destroying my credibility and election options."

Following the harassment allegations, Silver asked Lopez to resign. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and several activists joined the call, including a group of men concerned about violence against women.

"We must do all we can to protect women's rights in the workplace, and keep them away from abusers like Vito Lopez," Juan Ramos said in September.

But Lopez refused to step down.

The investigation into Lopez's conduct also created an internal rift that threatened the Joint Commission on Public Ethics in the state Assembly. One member quit the board over what he called a lack of independence from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislative leaders who appointed the 14-member commission.

Lopez has served in the Assembly since 1985. He was reelected last fall with 90 percent of the vote.

Do you think Assemblyman Lopez should resign? Leave your comments below...

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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