NJ Politics Digest: The Buck Stops With Murphy

Sen. Cory Booker has pledged not to take contributions from big pharma executives for his 2020 presidential campaign.
Sen. Cory Booker has pledged not to take contributions from big pharma executives for his 2020 presidential campaign. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Gov. Phil Murphy says he’s “taken responsibility” for the scandal engulfing his administration over hiring a man accused of raping a volunteer on his gubernatorial campaign.

But Murphy still won’t say who hired Al Alvarez for the $140,000-per-year state post Alvarez held until a newspaper report exposed the controversy. Asked the question by a caller during a telephone town hall Wednesday, Murphy expressed annoyance that screeners had let the question through.

“Not the question that you said you were going to ask, obviously,” the governor said, according to a report on NJ.com. Then the governor recommended the caller read a taxpayer-funded report Murphy commissioned into the scandal, that also failed to identify who gave the job to Alvarez—who denies the allegations against him and was not prosecuted by two county prosecutors offices that investigated the case.

The report has sparked anger among state lawmakers, including those from Murphy’s own party, who said it failed to answer basic questions surrounding Alvarez’s hiring and didn’t hold anyone responsible.

Top members of Murphy’s administration, including Alvarez’s boss and the head of personnel for the governor’s transition team, have told a legislative panel they don’t know who hired him.

Murphy has expressed regret that he didn’t know what happened sooner, saying he didn’t learn about the situation until the Wall Street Journal published its report. Murphy, however, had told the campaign volunteer, Katie Brennan, that he was “on it” when she emailed the governor and his wife asking to speak about a “sensitive topic” months before she went to the Wall Street Journal.

Still, Murphy said Thursday that if he’d known about the situation, Alvarez wouldn’t have been hired, according to Politico. Despite pleading ignorance, Murphy contended “the buck stops with me” and that he wouldn’t punish anyone in his administration for what happened.

And while no one will tell the legislative panel who hired Alvarez, Murphy said he was proud of how his office has cooperated with lawmakers, according to Politico.

Quote of the Day: “I’ve taken responsibility for what happened. More importantly, I’m taking responsibility for fixing it,” — Gov. Phil Murphy, who said he didn’t know about allegations a top aide raped a volunteer on his campaign until the Wall Street Journal reported on it, and claims he does not know who hired the man for a high-paying state job.

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