Murphy’s Inner Circle Admit Knowing for Months About Sex Assault Complaint Against Top Aide

By Nick Corasaniti


Dec. 18, 2018

Katie Brennan, a top official in Gov. Philip D. Murphy’s administration, said officials failed to take swift action after she accused another member of the administration of sexual assault.


TRENTON — Members of Gov. Philip D. Murphy’s inner circle testified on Tuesday that they knew for months about accusations of sexual assault against a top administration official, but did not take steps to force the man’s removal.

It was the first time that high-ranking members of the administration, including Pete Cammarano, the governor’s chief of staff, were called to testify under oath in front of a panel as part of an investigation into the incident, which has cast a pall over Mr. Murphy’s first year in office and threatens to impede his progressive agenda.

The hearing comes two weeks after Katie Brennan, in her first public comments since her allegations were made public in October, described in wrenching testimony in a separate hearing her allegations against Albert J. Alvarez, who she accused of sexually assaulting her following a campaign event last year. Ms. Brennan told the panel that administration officials ignored her requests for action and continued to employ Mr. Alvarez for nearly nine months after her allegations were first reported to several of Mr. Murphy’s senior aides.

In his testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Cammarano said he told Mr. Alvarez “that he needed to leave state government” during a private meeting in his office on March 26. He called the meeting after learning that Ms. Brennan took her allegations directly to Mr. Murphy’s chief counsel, Matthew Platkin. The meeting had not been previously disclosed.

“Mr. Alvarez adamantly denied the allegations and became teary-eyed and emotional, but I believed that he understood my instruction that he was to leave state service,” Mr. Cammarano said. “That was the last time I ever interacted with Mr. Alvarez.”

Mr. Alvarez eventually resigned in October after he was contacted by a reporter from The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Murphy has maintained that he was never told about the allegations against Mr. Alvarez until the Journal reporter contacted his office. Mr. Cammarano said that on the advice of his lawyers he never told the governor about the allegations.

“There are times that I wish that I told the governor,” Mr. Cammarano said.

Mr. Alvarez, who has not appeared before the committee, has denied the allegation.

Questions from the special legislative committee seemed to cast doubt on the policies the administration had in place to deal with allegations of sexual assault among its staff.

Ms. Brennan, in her testimony two weeks ago, said she contacted a member of Mr. Murphy’s transition team, the chief counsel to the governor, the chief ethics officer for Mr. Murphy and, finally, the governor himself about her allegations, to no avail.

During the hearing, Pamela R. Lampitt, an Democratic assemblywoman from southern New Jersey, repeatedly asked Justin Braz, Mr. Murphy’s deputy chief of staff, why no one in the administration had responded to Ms. Brennan’s claims.

“I know that she didn’t want her name revealed, but you knew, you knew this man was allegedly accused of sexual harassment, right?” Ms. Lampitt asked.

Mr. Braz responded: “Chairwoman, I thought I did everything I could at the appropriate time.”

Though no one directly tied Mr. Murphy to any wrongdoing on Tuesday, having his chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and other senior aides admitting they knew about the allegations could provide fodder for future political attacks.

Charles McKenna, the former head of the Schools Development Authority and Mr. Alvarez’s supervisor, testified that the administration was concerned about political fallout as a result of the allegations.

Mr. McKenna said that in June he discussed with Mr. Platkin about asking Mr. Alvarez to willingly leave the administration. Mr. McKenna said Mr. Platkin said the political fallout could become “ugly or embarrassing,” although he did not remember the exact word he used.

A member of the committee, State Senator Loretta Weinberg, said that Mr. Platkin did not testify on Tuesday because of a scheduling conflict. Ms. Brennan testified earlier this month that she told Mr. Platkin about her accusations in March.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Braz, Ms. Brennan’s close friend and one of the first people she spoke with about her accusations, spent nearly two hours testifying. Now Mr. Murphy’s deputy chief of staff, he told the panel he waited nearly seven months after Ms. Brennan first told him about the allegations last spring to tell someone in Mr. Murphy’s campaign or transition team. At that point, Ms. Brennan had told him she believed the Hudson County prosecutor’s office was about to arrest Mr. Alvarez.

Mr. Braz said he told Mr. Cammarano and Raj Parikh, the transition team’s counsel, that Mr. Alvarez could soon be facing criminal charges, but he did not name Ms. Brennan as the victim, per her request.

“They told me they were going to handle” it, he said.

Later that day, Ms. Brennan told Mr. Braz that prosecutors were not going to press charges. Mr. Braz testified that he relayed that information to Mr. Cammarano and Mr. Parikh and told them that Mr. Alvarez was the accused.

“I trusted the process would be handled accordingly," Mr. Braz told the panel.

Mr. Cammarano said that he met with Mr. Parikh to determine how best to proceed. Eventually, Mr. Cammarano said that Mr. Alvarez, who was serving as the deputy director of personnel, was limited in making hires, given that they did not know the identity of his accuser and wanted to protect her ability to work in the administration.

This information was never recorded in a permanent file, according to Mr. Cammarano, which surprised some of the legislators.

“I find it a little bit disturbing,” said Ms. Weinberg. “I’m sorry Pete, but if you have the deputy head of personnel from the transition committee who has been prevented somehow from hiring anybody, I would assume that that should follow him in his personnel file when he became an administrative employee.”

Ms. Weinberg said the committee would reconvene on Jan. 8. The committee has not ruled out calling Mr. Murphy to testify

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment