Listen to audio version of this article
The Bergen County Democrat and committee co-chair wanted to know if there was “a list” of people Governor Phil Murphy just had to hire upon taking office last year.
Ah, the list.
All politicians know what that is. Just about whenever someone is elected, and the position is really immaterial, there are people who are going to get jobs assuming they want one. These are your best campaign workers, friends, sometimes relatives and good old-fashion political cronies.
So, Weinberg wanted to know if Al Alvarez, whose hiring remains a mystery, was on such a list.
Tuesday’s hearing was the seventh over the last two months on Brennan’s allegation that Alvarez sexually assaulted her in April. 2017.
The question was asked of Lynn Haynes, who was the personnel director of the Murphy transition team and later a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s administration.
“I don’t have knowledge of any such list,” said Haynes, who has since left the administration.
Here things get a little tricky. Given the fact these are people hired through political connections, such a “list” is not always the type of thing people write down. The so-called list can simply exist in the heads of those doling out jobs. So, the lack of a physical list doesn’t necessarily mean one didn’t exist.
As we moved along, Haynes said she learned Alvarez was hired when he told her. According to her testimony, this is how he put it, “They’re sending me over to the SDA (Schools Development Authority) to be chief of staff.”
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, an Essex County Democrat and the other co-chair, asked the logical question. Just who is “they?”
Haynes said she did not know,
Marin followed up, wondering if Alvarez alluded to who they were.
He did not, Haynes said.
Wasn’t that odd, the assemblywoman wanted to know.
Haynes said it really wasn’t, explaining, “Al had longstanding relationships. He knew the governor well.”
Which may get us back to the list.
Broadly speaking, the committee’s goal is to examine state hiring practices and to find out why Alvarez was hired even though Brennan, who also got a high level job in the administration, had accused him of rape, Law enforcement authorities have not pressed charges against Alvarez, but Brennan stands by her story. The quandary is that without knowing who hired Alvarez, the committee can’t explore why.
Michael Critchley, one of the committee’s co-counsels, began the proceedings talking about the mystery at hand.
“We’re not going to let this drop. We’re going to pursue it,” he said.
As many on the committee have done, Critchley expressed amazement that no one with the Murphy Administration can answer the simple question as to who told Alvarez he had a job. He said he assumed that was going to be easy, but it’s been anything but. This led Critchley to eventually observe that the committee has consumed a lot of time to find out “nothing.”
The first witness of the day was Peter Cammarano, who just left his job as chief of staff for the governor. This was the third time before the committee for Cammarano.
If no one knew who hired Alvarez, Critchley wondered if Cammarano would at least talk in general terms about hiring practices.
“You would think that the hiring process of a senior official would not be this haphazard,” Critchley observed.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to that,” Cammarano said.
Critchley then asked with the luxury of hindsight if Alvarez should have been hired.
Cammarano refused to give ground on that one, saying he didn’t want to speculate on a hypothetical and that, “It is what it is.”
Joseph Hayden, another co-counsel, has more than once tried to interject “common sense” into the proceedings, especially in regard to the apparent refusal of Team Murphy to tell the governor about the allegations against Alvarez. Murphy, we are told, didn’t find out about them until October of last year when the Wall Street Journal was about to do a story on the matter.
Cammarano was once mayor of Metuchen. Hayden tried to draw a rough parallel between Metuchen and the governor by asking if then-Mayor Cammarano would have wanted to know about a suspected sexual assault allegation in his administration. Cammarano had been asked that before and responded that he didn’t want to speculate.
But Hayden essentially answered the question for him. He assumed that the mayor would want to know for common sense reasons.
“It’s his administration,” he said. “It’s his reputation. And he should not have been blindsided.”
Hayden very easily could have been talking about Phil Murphy.