So what is Al Alvarez’ side of the story in this ongoing saga?
Hard to tell, because Alvarez has not testified before the Select Committee and is unlikely to do so. But as Tuesday’s hearing dragged on until after dark, we got a tiny glimpse of his position. It came from Lizette Delgado-Polanco, the CEO of the Schools Development Authority, which is where Alvarez worked as chief of staff.
Delgado-Polanco testified that when he abruptly resigned on Oct. 2, 2018, Alvarez told her he was being investigated for rape. But he added that the charge was not true and that his relationship with Katie Brennan was “consensual,” according to the testimony. This was the first time in the hearings testimony was given that described, albeit briefly, Alvarez’ view of things.
Delgado-Polanco said she was shocked to hear Alvarez was being accused of rape.
“I thought someone threw a glass of cold water in my face,” she said. The CEO, by the way, said she knew both Alvarez and Brennan through politics. Delgado-Polanco is also vice-chair of the state Democratic Committee.
A few minutes later, committee member Steven Oroho, a Republican senator from Sussex County, asked Delgado-Polanco if she knew “how long” the relationship between Alvarez and Brennan had been going on. Delgado-Polanco replied she knew nothing about that and soon added that she has no doubt Brennan is telling the truth. Brennan testified in December that Alvarez sexually assaulted her in her Jersey City apartment in April of 2017.
“She doesn’t come across as an unstable person,” Delgado-Polanco said.
Women who claim to have been assaulted, like all crime victims, deserve to be believed unless facts eventually show otherwise. Still, a disquieting aspect of this case is that the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t file charges against Alvarez. In what hardly seems like normal procedure, that decision is now being reviewed by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
While Delgado-Polanco expressed a strong confidence in Brennan’s credibility, her testimony revealed some discrepancies in Alvarez’ behavior.
For example, earlier testimony has revealed that Alvarez was told to leave his schools job in March of 2018 and also in June of that year. When Delgado-Polanco took over as CEO in August, 2018, Alvarez should not have been there. But he was.
When they met for the first time, Delgado-Polanco said Alvarez told her he planned to depart, but he mentioned nothing about the rape allegation. Instead he said he wanted to leave because of “quality of life” issues, Delgado-Polanco testified. This partly had to do with a long commute between Trenton and Alvarez’ home in Bergen County, she said.
So when Alvarez abruptly resigned in advance of an October Wall Street Journal story about the alleged rape, that was the first time the new CEO heard about the allegations.
Committee members asked in a few different ways if she felt someone should have told her.
In an understatement that very well sums up how the Murphy administration has handled this issue, she replied, “It would have been nice.”