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It still may not be totally clear who hired Al Alvarez, but one thing is indisputable – the Murphy Administration messed up its handling of Katie Brennan’s rape allegation.
That’s the broad conclusion of a special Legislative Committee that began looking into the case six months ago. A report, parts of which were obtained by Insider NJ, details the administration’s missteps.
The report was written by committee attorneys Michael Critchley, Joseph Hayden and Rosemary Alito and is scheduled to be discussed by the committee on Wednesday.
The case became public last fall when Brennan told the Wall Street Journal that she was sexually assaulted by Alvarez in April, 2017, before Murphy became governor. Both Alvarez and Brennan subsequently got jobs with the administration. Brennan is still there; Alvarez is not.
The purpose of the committee hearings was not to investigate the rape allegation itself, but to examine why – and how – Alvarez landed a senior position in the School Development Authority while being accused of sexual assault.
Periodic hearings since December featured a string of administration officials, many of whom said they didn’t even know who hired Alvarez. Among the report’s conclusions is a direct statement that “Pete Cammarano and Jose Lozano hired Alvarez.” Cammarano was chief of staff and Lozano headed the Murphy transition team. But the report, or at least the overview, does not document how Alvarez was hired. But it does say – tongue in cheek perhaps – that “Alvarez did not hire himself.”
It also says that both Cammarano and Lozano “should have taken responsibility for their actions in the hiring process.”
At one point, the report says that the committee was “troubled” that so many administration officials refused to discuss their role in the hiring process or admit knowledge about the Alvarez hiring.
While “who hired Al Alvarez?” was a mysterious part of this episode, a greater oversight was the staff’s apparent refusal to tell Murphy what was going on.
Brennan, most infamously, wrote the governor and his wife a personal email just about a year ago now about a serious matter. The governor responded that he was on it, but nothing else apparently happened. And as this saga played out, administration officials said they didn’t tell the governor that the “serious matter” was a sexual assault allegation against Alvarez.
It seemed mind-boggling at the time – and it still does to any clear-thinking individual – that staff would not tell the governor about a sexual assault.
The report’s overview jumps around on this point, but the consensus is there was no legal reason, as administration officials testified, not to tell Murphy, adding that those who relied on employment law misunderstood the law.
The overview also raised a very obvious point, that being the administration’s concern about negative publicity if details of this story came out. (Gee, it’s sure a good thing that didn’t happen).
More details obviously will emerge assuming the final report is released this week. But it’s easy to see where we are going.
And that is, the administration botched this one from the start. There will be legislation proposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
But in the meantime, the more relevant question is what this report means for the governor and his inner-circle of aides.