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State pays millions in sex harass cases

Friday, October 05, 2012 - Updated: 7:50 PM

ALBANY (AP) -- New York taxpayers paid more than $5 million in the last two years to settle more than a dozen sexual harassment cases against state workers, according to records obtained Thursday.

The cases include $1.79 million paid to a woman who worked for the state prisons system in western New York. The incident reported in 2000 was settled in 2009, with $1.1 million of the payout going to attorney fees, according to the first batch of records provided to The Associated Press under the state Freedom of Information Law.

Payouts in cases identified in records so far against state employees begin at $125,000.

The records from the attorney general's office were requested following the disclosure of $103,000 in public money paid to settle a sex harassment claim against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a Brooklyn Democrat. That case was settled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in June and included a confidentiality agreement sought by the two accusers. It surfaced Aug. 24, after the Assembly ethics committee censured Lopez for separate accusations by two women dating to July.

Silver has said he won't agree to any other private settlements because government must be transparent. The case against Lopez, who denies sexually harassing anyone, forced the issue of sexual harassment in Albany into public view. The Lopez cases are now being reviewed by the state ethics board.

The records obtained Thursday didn't involve any elected officials. They show that the state employees accused of sexual harassment paid a fraction of the cost, as little as $333 in a total settlement of $333,000.

The records so far show that the settlements were made in cases involving the Department of Corrections, the State University of New York, the City University of New York, the Office of Mental Health and a psychiatric hospital.

     

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