Here’s how much N.J. taxpayers have paid so far for an investigation into the hire of a Murphy staffer accused of rape

Updated Feb 19, 2019

New Jersey taxpayers have paid $22,500 so far for an investigation launched by Gov. Phil Murphy to examine how his administration responded to allegations that a former top staffer raped a campaign supporter, records show.

Peter Verniero, the former state Supreme Court justice who was tapped by Murphy to lead the inquiry, submitted a preliminary invoice on Jan. 16, according to a billing document obtained by NJ Advance Media through the state Open Public Records Act.

The is just the first invoice for the four-month investigation, a source familiar with the issue told NJ Advance Media. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the issue.

It’s not yet known what the final tab will be, though it will likely be much higher.

Verniero’s firm, Sills Cummis & Gross, is being paid $350 an hour for its work, the Murphy administration has said.

"The system failed and is in need of reform,” concludes a report by Peter Verniero on how Gov. Phil Murphy team responded to Katie Brennan's rape allegation.

Verniero’s inquiry yielded a controversial report earlier this month that largely clears Murphy’s aides of wrongdoing in how they reacted to Katie Brennan’s allegations that Albert J. Alvarez raped her after a Murphy campaign gathering in April 2017. Brennan was a campaign supporter and Alvarez was a campaign official at the time.

Alvarez was later hired to become chief of staff to the New Jersey Schools Development Authority even though top members of Murphy’s staff testified they were aware of the allegations, and he remained in the job for months despite being told twice to leave.

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

The report says while Murphy’s aides made mistakes in how they handled the matter, they acted “under their best judgement and understanding of existing law.”

It also says that the “system” ultimately failed Brennan, who is now chief of staff at the New Jersey Mortgage and Finance Agency.

In addition, the report backs up what Murphy has said many times: that he didn’t personally know about Brennan’s allegations until last October, when Alvarez resigned after the Wall Street Journal contacted him for comment.

In the wake of the report, Murphy said he wished he had been told sooner about and that his aides should have acted more “swiftly and decisively” to remove Alvarez.

State lawmakers from both parties have criticized the report. State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen — the co-chair of a separate legislative investigation into the matter — said the report leaves “too many unanswered questions," is “peppered with vagaries and uncertainties," and appeared to “make more of an effort to exonerate” Murphy’s staff than it did to “shed light” on the case.

The report does not reveal one of the key unanswered questions in the matter: who actually hired Alvarez.

The legislative committee is continuing with its investigation. Taxpayers are also footing $350 an hour for attorneys the state Legislature has hired to help with that probe.

So far, the price tag of Verniero’s investigation pales in comparison to what New Jersey taxpayers paid to the law firm that former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, hired to run an internal investigation into the Bridgegate scandal. The state spent more than $10 million on that inquiry, which Democrats blasted as being biased and incomplete.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment