Call for changes after lawmaker resigns

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – In the wake of the resignation of Cheektowaga Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, Western New York lawmakers are calling for reforms.

Gabryszak says he’ll fight allegations of sexual harassment brought by seven of his former female aides. In the meantime, some of his former colleagues believe the state should toughen laws and guidelines on issues of sexual harassment.

Assemblyman Michael Kearns said, “Whether it’s losing people’s pensions, whether it’s getting rid of secret settlements, I think we need to also change the rules in how things are done in the New York State Assembly.”

Kearns had introduced a bill that would prohibit the kind secret settlement Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had struck with the two female victims of disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

“[He] took taxpayer money to say we’re going to settle these sexual suits against Mr. Lopez, and he did that without our consultation, without looking at the taxpayers,” Kearns said.

After a state ethics investigation, Lopez had to pay $330,000 out of his own pocket to settle those suits. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is expected to decide within days whether taxpayers should foot the bill for Gabryszak’s defense, or whether he should pay for it himself. The way the law is structured, it could go either way.

Senator Mark Grisanti said, “There is something where the taxpayers have to pick it up. Do I think it’s right? Absolutely not. Do I think that now, an individual moving forward, if he does something like this he loses his pension? Absolutely should.”

Gabryszak’s attorney Terry Connors believes the state should pay for his client’s defense, and is urging the public not to pre-judge the former lawmaker.

“We ought to let the process play out. That’s why we have hearings. That’s why we have trials. You don’t make a judgment based on what someone says in an allegation,” Connors said.

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