NJ Politics Digest: Murphy Orders Investigation Into State’s Hiring of Alleged Rapist

Gov. Phil Murphy said his administration will investigate how it gave a high-paying state education job to a politically connected Democrat accused of raping a campaign volunteer in 2017.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images

Gov. Phil Murphy said his administration will investigate how it gave a high-paying state education job to a politically connected Democrat accused of raping a campaign volunteer in 2017.

Murphy’s order comes as pressure mounts on the governor days after the allegations went public and four months after the woman reached out to Murphy and his wife asking for a meeting to discuss what happened, according to reports.

Meanwhile, questions also remain why the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office declined to prosecute the case.

This is the latest hiring scandal to plague Murphy, who last month defended giving a former Passaic City councilman who pleaded guilty to taking bribes a $70,000 per year state post. It was later revealed that state law prohibits officials found guilty of corruption from holding further public office.

A third hire who was allegedly involved in a campaign finance scandal in Bermuda now earns $140,000 annually as an adviser in the Secretary of State’s Office, The Record reports.

Murphy’s call for an investigation comes after a week of reports about an alleged sexual assault incident involving Albert J. Alvarez, who, on October 2, left his $140,000-a-year job as chief of staff of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.

In a story in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, former campaign volunteer Katie Brennan claimed Alvarez sexually assaulted her after he drove her home from a campaign gathering in Jersey City in July 2017. At the time, Alvarez served as director of Latino and Muslim community outreach for Murphy’s campaign.

Brennan now works as chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.

Brennan said she went to the hospital, told her husband and friend what happened and reported the alleged incident to police the next day, according to reports. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, however, declined to prosecute, according to NJ.com.
Brennan said she also told the Murphy transition team about the alleged assault, but Alvarez was given a state job anyway, according to the report.

She said she told the governor’s chief counsel, who referred the incident to an ethics official who then referred it to the state Attorney General’s Office. On June 1, Brennan emailed Murphy and his wife saying she wanted to discuss a sensitive matter. Murphy indicated his administration was “on it,” but Alvarez remained in his job for four more months, according to The Wall Street Journal report.

Alvarez’s attorney has said his client denies the allegations.

On Monday, Murphy said an investigation into how Alvarez was hired will be conducted by former state Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero.

And the criminal complaint has been sent to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office for review, the Attorney General’s Office announced on Monday. That’s because it was discovered during a review that Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez knows both Alvarez and Brennan, NJ.com reported.

Quote of the Day: “The people of New Jersey deserve a full and straightforward accounting of what happened during the campaign, what carried forward into the transition and what continued into the administration.” — a statement by Democratic legislative leaders, on Gov. Phil Murphy’s hiring of a man accused of sexually assaulting a volunteer on his campaign for a post in the state Department of Education.

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