Ex-Murphy staffer accused of rape is set to testify next week. Murphy still mum on who hired him.

Updated Mar 8, 2019

Gov. Phil Murphy still has “nothing new” to say about who may have hired a former top aide accused of raping a campaign supporter, even as that ex-official is set to testify in public next week.

Albert J. Alvarez is scheduled to appear before state lawmakers in Trenton on Tuesday and may finally answer the nagging question that has surrounded Murphy’s administration in recent months: Who actually tapped him for a state job?

Up to now, numerous officials close to Murphy have all said they don’t know who brought Alvarez on board. And Murphy himself has been mum on the question.

That didn’t change Friday. The Democratic governor was asked during an unrelated news conference in West Orange if he believes Tuesday’s hearing will solve the mystery.

“I apologize for disappointing you,” Murphy told the reporter who asked the question. “I’ve read what you’ve read. I got no visibility into that. I’ve got nothing new to add there."

The issue has cast a shadow on Murphy’s administration for six months. Another state official, Katie Brennan, has publicly accused Alvarez of raping her after a Murphy campaign gathering in 2017, when she was a supporter and Alvarez was a campaign official.

Alvarez has denied the allegations, and two county prosecutors have declined to charge him with a crime.

Alvarez was hired as chief of staff of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority — a job that paid $140,000 a year (and $170,000 after a raise) — despite top Murphy aides saying they knew about the allegations.

He remained in the job for months though Brennan told Murphy’s team about the matter multiple times and top Murphy aides told him to leave twice. Alvarez didn’t resign until October, when the Wall Street Journal asked him to comment on Brennan’s accusations.

A special legislative committee investigating how Murphy’s team responded to the allegations has heard testimony from various members of Murphy’s inner circle. All of them have said they don’t know who hired Alvarez. Some lawmakers have even wondered if Alvarez hired himself.

Now, the committee has subpoenaed Alvarez to testify. State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen — the committee’s co-chair — said he has agreed to appear Tuesday.

Weinberg said the panel is not allowed to ask about the alleged rape itself because Brennan has sued the state. Lawmakers have agreed to ask Alvarez only about his hiring and Murphy’s hiring practices.

A report commissioned by Murphy to examine the administration’s response to Brennan’s allegations largely cleared Murphy’s aides of wrongdoing in the matter and did not discover who hired Alvarez.

Murphy has said he didn’t know about Brennan’s allegations until Alvarez resigned in October. Though he has declined to answer questions about who may have hired Alvarez, the governor has said he wishes his staff told him about the issue earlier and that Alvarez was removed sooner.

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