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New York Assembly Pays $205K To Firm For Sexual Harassment Reform, Probes

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The state Assembly has entered into two contracts worth $205,000 for an outside counsel to handle sexual harassment policy development and investigations after a high-profile scandal.

The state comptroller's office says Tuesday the approval is for contracts with Rossein Associates. A spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says the firm was retained by the Ethics Committee as part of reforms announced in May.

Merrick Rossein is a law professor at the City University of New York Law School at Queens College.

Silver faced harsh criticism last year for a $103,000 settlement using public money to silence the first accusations against veteran Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn. Lopez resigned and has denied the accusations.

The episode threatened Silver's leadership role, which he's held since 1994. Silver has admitted he made a mistake, apologized and has pushed for reforms.

Vito Lopez
Former Assemblyman Vito Lopez (Photo: CBS 2)

The state Legislative Ethics Commission fined Lopez $330,000, thought to be the largest fine in Albany history. The panel found at least 33 "inappropriate actions,""offensive comments of a sexual nature" and "unwanted physical contact" against at least four women while he was an assemblyman and powerful Brooklyn political leader.

After resigning from the Assembly, Lopez ran for a City Council seat, but was defeated in the Democratic primary.

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