Kings County District Attorney Joe Hynes is increasing the pressure on Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the once-powerful outgoing chair of the borough’s Democratic Party, by applying for a special prosecutor to investigate sexual harassment reports against Mr. Lopez. Mr. Hynes said past support from the local Democratic organization “had the potential to create an appearance of impropriety,” and an independent district attorney could better carry out the investigation.
Mr. Hynes, once a close political ally of Mr. Lopez’s, released the following statement to explain the move:
“Press reports concerning the report of the Assembly Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance to Speaker Sheldon Silver, regarding allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, did not make clear the county where the alleged acts occurred.
“I made a request to the Standing Committee to determine if any of the conduct occurred in Kings County. On Wednesday Aug. 29, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, chair of the committee advised me that some of the conduct did occur in Kings County.
“Later that day I asked for and received a copy of the committee’s letter to Speaker Silver. 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.
“This morning I applied for the appointment of a Special District Attorney and am making public my affirmation supporting my application.”