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On October 15, 2018, Governor Phil Murphy announced that his administration would retain Peter G. Verniero and his firm, Sills Cummis & Gross P.C., to conduct a systemic review of the vetting and hiring practices of the Governor-elect’s transition office.
The administration asked that the review include the vetting and hiring of Albert J. Alvarez, regarding his position in the transition office and his eventual position at the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA).
Verniero says the chronology of facts in the Katie Brennan case shows an alleged victim of sexual assault asserting her allegation at different levels only to be informed that her allegation could not be evaluated or addressed in an administrative capacity.
“The lack of an administrative review denied both the complainant and the accused employee an avenue to determine the facts and a process for evaluating a serious allegation. Whether the decision not to conduct an investigation was made during the transition period, or after the start of the administration, decision-makers appear to have been acting, with the advice of counsel, under their best judgment and understanding of existing law. Nonetheless, to the extent that transition or governmental officials felt unable to act either because the identity of the alleged victim was unknown or the alleged conduct predated state service, the system failed and is in need of reform.”
Verniero concludes that the Murphy Transition Team needed to have taken additional steps, including the beginnings of an investigation in the form of interviewing Alvarez and returning to Justin Braz – who knew the specifics of the allegation – in the hope of obtaining additional information from Brennan.
“Who made the decision to hire Mr. Alvarez into state service? …The precise answer to that question is unclear. We are left to surmise that, similar to his joining the transition office, Mr. Alvarez’s hiring into state service was a foregone conclusion given his involvement in the Murphy campaign and association with the transition office.”
The full report can be found here.Report