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Cuomo: Scandals in Albany could harm Legislature

ALBANY — New York’s new legislative session will kick off under a lingering cloud of scandals involving lawmakers, prompting concern from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that people will lose faith in the state Legislature.

“The Legislature as a whole — the trust is eroding by this drip, drip, drip of bad acts, scandals, et cetera. It erodes the public trust. If you erode the public trust, you erode the capacity of government,” Cuomo told reporters Monday at the state Capitol.

Cuomo delivers his State of the State address Wednesday to begin the 2014 session of the state Legislature. The speech comes as Buffalo-area Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak is being accused by six former and current employees of harassing them, the latest in a string of legislative sex harassment cases and public corruption scandals in recent years.

The harassment cases have centered on the state Assembly, where Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver continues to face criticism for using $103,000 in public money for a secret settlement to end sex harassment claims against Vito Lopez, a former Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn. Lopez, who resigned last year, has denied sexually harassing anyone.

In recent notices of claim against Gabryszak, he is accused of grabbing one woman and trying to kiss her and of telling another during a 2012 event that, “You’re so hot, you know what I want to do with you.” The notices are the first step toward a lawsuit.