It pays to save emails. As far back as February 2010, I’ve been getting e-mails about the shady dealings, bullying tactics, and misuse of non-profit funds that Vito Lopez was dishing out from his privileged position of elected official for the 53rd district, in Brooklyn.
Mr. Lopez is not only a politician. He is also a social worker. While most social workers are slogging away trying to help the poor, Mr. Lopez chose to enter politics.
Social work is a great field to come from if you want to go into politics — presumably because our work makes us aware of the needs of people. Social workers are usually willing to fight against special interests, and with a degree of integrity. Social workers have a formal code of ethics: we are supposed to be sworn to service, social justice, and integrity, to name a few things in that code.
Mr. Lopez, however, jumped from social service into self-enrichment. He has been caught giving a six-figure job to a girlfriend in his own “nonprofit” the Bushwick Ridgewood Senior Citizens Council, which is in Brooklyn, where I now reside. He has harassed his female employees; associates have previously stated to the press that he tried to bully them into giving jobs to his friends’ kids. Bushwick Ridgewood is for Mr. Lopez not a project to make the lives of senior citizens better, but a means to collect about $19 million a year in public and private money and use it tax exempt with no oversight.
Some daringly unethical politicians would put their girlfriend in a job and pay her a modest six-figure salary, in the hope that they would stay under the radar. But not Lopez. He was paying her $782,000 a year.
Just a little favor, paid from monies meant to go to fixed-income seniors.Thanks to that theft alone, seniors in his district were probably eating a lot more tuna fish and cold cereal than any of them would like.