Murphy Transition Chair Doesn’t Know Who Hired Alvarez

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Lawmakers push for Phil Murphy to reveal who hired ex-staffer accused of rape

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Gov. Phil Murphy is pictured in 2017. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for
Gov. Phil Murphy is pictured in 2017. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for

State lawmakers have heard hours of sworn testimony from some of Gov. Phil Murphy’s top aides, yet they don’t have an answer to a simple but crucial question: Who hired Albert J. Alvarez, the former top state official whom Katie Brennan accused of raping her?

Now the special legislative committee investigating how the Murphy administration responded to Brennan’s allegation is making a direct appeal for the governor’s office to reveal this information, NJ Advance Media has learned.

The panel sent a letter last week asking Murphy’s office directly to “identify” who gave Alvarez a senior job in the administration and make that person “available to testify” at the panel’s next hearing on Tuesday.

One of the committee’s lawyers, Joseph Hayden, sent the letter Jan. 28, to Christopher Porrino, an attorney overseeing the issue for Murphy’s office.

“We thought we’d just ask directly," state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, the committee’s co-chair, told NJ Advance Media on Monday. “It would seem to me that the governor could tell his staff to please let us know.”

The letter the special legislative committee sent to Gov. Phil Murphy's attorney.>
The letter the special legislative committee sent to Gov. Phil Murphy's attorney.  NJ Advance Media

Weinberg said Murphy’s office has not replied to the letter. She believes the panel is unlikely to have a response in the 24 hours before its next hearing Tuesday.

“It’s not going to be a big unveiling of the wizard,” Weinberg said.

Porrino, Murphy’s attorney, said he received the letter and will respond this week.

Murphy’s spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Brennan, also a staff official, accused Alvarez of raping her after a Murphy campaign gathering in April 2017, when she was a Murphy supporter and he was a campaign official.

Alvarez was hired to be chief of staff of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority and remained in that job for months even though Brennan repeatedly told Murphy’s team about her allegations.

Alvarez has denied the allegations and two county prosecutor’s offices have declined to charge him with a crime. Murphy’s inner circle says Alvarez was hired only after a background check showed he had no criminal charges against him.

But multiple officials from Murphy’s campaign, transition, and administration — including his former chief of staff, his chief counsel, and his transition team chair — have testified to the committee that they don’t know who hired lvarez.

Murphy himself has refused refused in recent weeks to answer questions about Alvarez’s hiring.

In addition to examining how Murphy’s team responded to Brennan’s allegations, the committee is tasked with creating policy to improve the state’s hiring practices and procedures for how to respond to allegations of sexual assault. That, lawmakers say, is why it’s critical to find out how Alvarez was hired.

A source familiar with the situation said Alvarez had been around Murphy’s team for a long time, serving in the campaign and the transition, and it was expected he’d get a job in the administration.

But the source said it’s not surprising no one could recall who signed off on Alvarez’s hiring since the transition was a hectic time and the conversation would have been a short one.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the matter.

Even without an answer to the letter, Weinberg said she hopes Tuesday’s hearing will help shed light on the mystery. Expected to testify is Lynn Haynes, Murphy’s former deputy chief of staff and director of personnel for the governor’s transition team. Haynes' name was on the paperwork related to Alvarez’s hiring.

Weinberg said Pete Cammarano, Murphy’s chief of staff, also will return Tuesday to finish his testimony. Cammarano appeared twice before the panel, but the committee had more questions.

Brent Johnson may be reached at >bjohnson@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter >@johnsb01

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