NJ Politics Digest: Probe Likely After Reports Claim Murphy Ignored Ethics Official

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Alyana Alfaro for Observer

A bombshell report by NorthJersey.com that Gov. Phil Murphy’s office ignored a state ethics official’s warning about the Schools Development Authority’s hiring practices has legislative leaders saying they will again probe staffing at the state’s troubled SDA.

On Friday, The Record published an interview with Jane F. Kelly, a vice president in charge of ethics at the authority, who said she’d warned the governor’s office that new SDA Chief Executive Lizette Delgado-Polanco was giving high-paying state jobs to large numbers of people that she had personal or political connections with.

Kelly said she tried to warn Murphy because at the time, the legislature was already pursuing questions of how a top official in the Murphy campaign got a job at the authority even after a campaign volunteer alleged he’d raped her. In that probe, no one questioned by the legislature admitted to knowing how Al Alvarez, who denied the allegations and was never charged with a crime, got the job as SDA chief of staff. Instead of acting on Kelly’s concerns, staff in the governor’s office told her to file a written complaint, according to the report.

An investigation by The Record has found that Delgado-Polanco, former vice chairwoman of the Democratic State Committee, allegedly hired “people outside of the normal hiring process, brought on employees who lacked basic qualifications and the authority created job descriptions for workers months after they were hired.” Delgado-Polanco resigned in April.

Kelly told the newspaper that before going to the governor’s office, she had reached out to Delgado-Polanco and Alvarez with her concerns about hiring, but it seemed to have no impact. In all, Delgado-Polanco hired about three dozen people, the report said.

After the report was published, Senate President Steve Sweeney said that the legislature would “be looking into this.” Republicans in the legislature are calling for an investigation. Murphy has been dogged with problems about the administration hiring politically connected supporters since taking office.

The administration suffered a black eye in September 2018 after it hired former Passaic City Councilman Marcellus Jackson for a $70,000 post, even though Jackson has served time in prison for taking bribes. Murphy defended the hiring, but Jackson was forced to resign anyway due to a state law that bars public officials convicted of corruption from future public jobs.

Quote of the Day: “I’m thinking, I’m going to help him. I’m going to call there, I’m going to alert them that this is happening, they’ll get right on it, they’ll fix it and avoid an issue. I thought it was a serious matter and that they would take it seriously,” — Jane F. Kelly, vice president in charge of ethics at the Schools Development Authority.

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NJ Politics Digest: Probe Likely After Reports Claim Murphy Ignored Ethics Official