New Jersey Governor’s Inner Circle Roiled by Sexual Assault Allegations Against Top Official

By Nick Corasaniti


Oct. 11, 2018

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey speaking at an event this month in Nutley, N.J.


A top administration official to the governor of New Jersey, Philip D. Murphy, resigned abruptly last week with no public explanation. This week news reports emerged that the aide, Albert J. Alvarez, had been the subject late last year of a sexual assault investigation by a county prosecutor.

Now Mr. Alvarez’s departure and the circumstances surrounding it are roiling Trenton, with top Republicans in the Legislature calling for hearings and Democrats working behind the scenes to find out more about the investigation and the actions taken by the Murphy administration.

At an unrelated event on Tuesday, Mr. Murphy, a Democrat who was elected in November, declined to offer any details about Mr. Alvarez’s resignation.

“I know that Al has resigned and beyond that I have no more color to offer,” Mr. Murphy told reporters.

On Thursday, his office would not provide further comment.

Mr. Alvarez did not respond to multiple calls. He had been the chief of staff at the Schools Development Authority, which deals with school construction.

Jon M. Bramnick, the Republican leader in the Assembly, and several other Republicans in the Legislature, which is controlled by the Democrats, called for public hearings.

“The real question is this: What happened, and when did it happen?” Mr. Bramnick said in an interview. “I would just ask the campaign, or the administration, ‘Hey, what happened during this period of time, and if there were serious allegations, why was somebody hired? What’s the background? Tell us what occurred, because obviously there were sources who were deeply concerned about an individual being hired.”

Eight Republican women who serve in the Legislature joined Mr. Bramnick in calling for hearings, as did Tom Kean Jr., the Senate minority leader.

Democrats in the Senate, including Stephen M. Sweeney, the Senate president, said in a statement that they were disturbed by the allegations, but did not raise the possibility of legislative hearings.

“This type of behavior has too often been tolerated, ignored or dismissed,” the statement said. “Public officials have a leadership responsibility to help bring about the change in attitudes and actions that is long overdue.”

Craig Coughlin, the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, issued a separate statement, calling the allegations involving Mr. Alvarez “deeply troubling and appalling.”

“Sexual misconduct is inappropriate in any circumstance,” Mr. Coughlin said. “As facts become known, I want to ensure a proper review has been conducted.”

But Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat who is running for Congress from New Jersey, went further, calling for an independent investigation.

“We can’t allow our society to silence the voices of the victims of sexual harassment and abuse,” she said in a statement. “We need an independent investigation to get to the truth of this matter, and in clear terms to state that sexual misconduct will never be tolerated.”

An account of the allegations against Mr. Alvarez was first reported on Wednesday night by Politico.

The woman, who does not want to be publicly identified, could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Alvarez, who was director of Latino outreach for the Murphy campaign, was accused of sexually assaulting a woman, who had been a volunteer on the campaign, according to three people familiar with the matter who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the allegations.

The Hudson County prosecutor’s office conducted a criminal investigation, but did not bring charges, the three people said. The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that it “does not comment on investigations being conducted by this office.”

Brendan Gill, who had served as Mr. Murphy’s campaign manager, said he was never made aware of an allegation against Mr. Alvarez during the campaign.

“It’s not something you would forget,” said Mr. Gill, who now serves as an outside political adviser to Mr. Murphy.

After the election, the woman brought the allegation to a member of Mr. Murphy’s transition team, where Mr. Alvarez was working as a deputy director of personnel, the three people said. Members of the transition team conducted a background check and found that Mr. Alvarez had not faced any criminal charges.

Once Mr. Murphy took office, the woman brought the allegations to a senior official in the governor’s administration, who referred the information to the attorney general’s office in the spring, according to the three people.

“We can confirm that the governor’s office conveyed information to the attorney general’s office regarding Mr. Alvarez,” said Sharon Lauchaire, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office. “Beyond that we cannot comment on the specifics of the information.”

The woman then sent an email to Mr. Murphy and his wife, Tammy, asking for a meeting about a “sensitive matter,” though she did not provide details about what she wanted to discuss, the three people said.

In response, Mr. Murphy wrote back telling her that the appropriate official would follow up. The matter was referred to his campaign counsel.

Last week, Mr. Alvarez submitted his resignation.

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