NYC-tabloid Daily News chose to play up an embarrassing email conveniently omitted from the state Senate’s Ethics Committee investigation into Vito Lopez, which seemed to suggest Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver not only had worked against a full investigation of Lopez’s misbehavior, but also had a flirtatious relationship of his own with his top aide.
In the February 14, 2012 email, Vito Lopez apparently told a woman on his staff that he wanted a relationship similar to what Sheldon Silver had with his top aide. Though the email was not explicit and contained no hard evidence of any impropriety, it seemed to imply a romantic or sexual relationship between Silver and Judy Rapfogel, who is seen as one of Silver’s most loyal confidants.
Rapfogel strongly denied the allegations, calling them “absurd and insulting to all women.”
The findings, which were turned over to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) as part of the investigation into Lopez’s alleged harassment of two staffers, also suggest the female staffers had a fear of the close relationship between Silver and Lopez and had expressed discomfort with the Senate’s failure to investigate the allegations.
This is a further embarrassment for Silver, who had previously insisted that he withheld the allegations from the Assembly Ethics Committee only because the women involved wanted secret financial settlements instead of full disclosure. The document, however, seems to suggest the opposite. Silver has continued to maintain he acted to protect the women’s privacy, not Lopez’s reputation.
In spite of coming out against Lopez and pointing to Silver’s work to prevent an investigation, the report was still criticized for being soft on Silver. No mention of the damaging report was made of the email in the JCOPE’s report, which revealed at least eight instances of groping and other forms of harassment by Lopez since 2010 and forced his resignation last month.