Ex-Murphy official accused of rape ‘couldn’t tell you’ who hired him to $140,000 job

Updated Mar 12, 2019

"Who Hired You?" Questioning of Albert Alvarez
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An unsolved mystery.

Albert J. Alvarez, the former top aide to Gov. Phil Murphy accused of raping another official in the administration, testified Tuesday that while he had several conversations with top aides about becoming chief of staff to the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, even he couldn’t say who hired him.

This question of who hired Alvarez to the Murphy administration has intrigued state lawmakers who for months have questioned members of Murphy’s inner circle but still are unable to crack the case.

Alvarez’s testimony Tuesday didn’t answer this nagging question.

He said he told then-income Chief of Staff Pete Cammarano and the transition chief, Jose Lozano, that he had his sights on becoming CEO of the schools authority, which carries a $225,000 salary, but that Lozano informed him the sitting CEO would be staying on. The chief of staff position, however, was available, Alvarez said.

Alvarez said he briefly discussed the job’s pay with Lozano, who told him that he should meet with the CEO if he was interested. Alvarez said he believed it was a “done deal” after meeting with the then-CEO of the Schools Development Authority, Charlie McKenna. Then he received a formal offer letter, Avarez said.

“I never had a conversation with Mr. Cammarano where he sat me down and interviewed me and said you want the job of the chief of staff, you’re hired. I never had that conversation with him, never had that conversation with Mr. Lozano. No one ever said to me, you’re hired,” Alvarez said as he appeared at the Statehouse on Tuesday to testify before the special legislative committee investigating how Murphy’s staff responded to the rape allegations.

Neither Lozano nor Cammarano — who both had been made aware that Alvarez was accused of sexual assault — tried to discourage him from seeking the chief of staff position, Alvarez said.

“I spoke to all those individuals about my interest in this job. No one ever told me that I was not qualified or I should not seek that position,” Alvarez’s said.

His testimony seems to confirm theories that Alvarez was hired by no one in particular.

Alvarez is the man at the center of a legislative inquiry into how Murphy’s transition team and administration handled Katie Brennan’s rape allegation. Brennan, chief of staff to the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, has said he raped her after a campaign gathering in Jersey City in April 2017.

Months of testimony revealed that Alvarez was brought into state employment even though three officials knew he was accused of sexual assault, and that he stayed in government employ until he was contacted by the Wall Street Journal in October, even as Brennan alerted more and more senior officials.

But all have denied playing a role in actually hiring Alvarez, complicating the legislative committee’s aim of improving the state’s hiring practices.

Most recently, the director of personnel for the transition, Lynn Haynes, testified that one of three top aides must have hired Alvarez, but she did not know which.

The three aides — Lozano, Cammarano and Chief Counsel Matt Platkin — all testified they didn’t hire Alvarez and did not know who did.

Of those three, an attorney for the Legislature asked, “Who hired you?”

“I couldn’t tell you,” Alvarez said.

Both Lozano and Cammarano testified that Platkin oversaw hiring for the state’s various authorities, but Platkin testified he “was not involved in the process for hiring Mr. Alvarez.”

Alvarez said he never had a conversation with Platkin about his desire to join the school authority but Alvarez believed Cammarano had a say in all hiring decisions, including his.

Haynes said that Alvarez’s placement at the SDA seemed like a “natural progression” for a loyal aide who was involved in the campaign and transition, had a long-standing relationship with the governor, friends on the campaign and experience as deputy chief of staff for a previous administration.

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