Sexual Assault Claims Roiled Gov. Murphy’s Administration, however Inquiries Have Led Nowhere

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The accusation rocked Trenton: A top official in Gov. Philip D. Murphy’s administration claimed that will another official had sexually assaulted her during Mr. Murphy’s campaign in 2017. Yet despite the woman’s repeated pleas to Mr. Murphy’s senior aides, her colleague remained in his $170,000-a-year state job for months before resigning.

Mr. Murphy said he did not know about the assault accusation by Katie Brennan against Albert J. Alvarez before that will became public along with that will his administration had technically done nothing wrong. The legislature launched an investigation, while the governor opened a separate review by an outside counsel.

right now, several months later, one simple, yet significant, question remains a head scratching mystery: Who hired Mr. Alvarez?

that will is actually one of several questions in a slow-boil scandal that will has revealed the inner workings along with shortcomings of completely new Jersey state government.

Everyone through the governor to top aides have denied — under oath — having hired Mr. Alvarez, who has denied the accusation. Even Peter Verniero, a former state Supreme Court justice enlisted by the Murphy administration to conduct an outside review was unable to determine who hired Mr. Alvarez.

that will seems implausible that will no one can say who hired Mr. Alvarez. Indeed, state legislators are growing increasingly skeptical that will a sitting governor cannot figure out who on his staff approved a high-level hiring.

Republicans on the committee investigating Ms. Brennan’s case have called on Mr. Murphy to testify.

Mr. Alvarez got a top position as chief of staff at the Schools Development Authority even though he had already been accused of sexual assault.

His hire has also raised broader questions about the hiring practices of Mr. Murphy’s transition team along with whether various other officials who cultivated close ties with the governor during the campaign ended up with high-paying state jobs with little vetting.

Mr. Murphy has said that will he “accepted responsibility” for his administration’s response to Ms. Brennan’s accusation along with would certainly not punish aides for following what they thought current state policy said was the proper course of action.

Matt Platkin, Mr. Murphy’s chief counsel, advised members of Mr. Murphy’s inner circle about confidentiality restrictions that will would certainly have also precluded anyone through telling the governor about Ms. Brennan’s claim.

Heather Taylor, the chief ethics officer, said in her testimony that will she told Ms. Brennan the state could not investigate her accusation because the assault happened before Ms. Brennan along with Mr. Alvarez started off working for the state. (Ms. Brennan had initially tried to press criminal charges against Mr. Alvarez through the Hudson County Prosecutor’s office, which eventually declined to pursue the case.)

The state recently recommended numerous alterations to how that will handles sexual misconduct cases, including expanding the state’s jurisdiction to investigate claims of sexual harassment along with assault. however that will did not address the confidentiality restrictions.

The accusation along with ensuing scandal threatened to halt the liberal agenda of Mr. Murphy, who pledged to steer the state sharply to the left after eight years of Republican leadership under Chris Christie.

along with that will seemed likely to spill beyond the confines of Trenton; a #metoo allegation rooted not inside the halls of media or Hollywood however inside the inner sanctum of a progressive administration that will sought to be a champion for women’s rights.

Yet that will never seemed to grab the energy pulsing through the national reckoning over sexual assault along with harassment, in part because, aside through Ms. Brennan’s wrenching testimony, no smoking gun has emerged.

“So far, the only culpability possibly ascribed to the governor himself is actually having put together a leadership team that will seems to not yet have clear lines of authority for hiring or crisis management or communication,” said John Weingart, the associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.

While Mr. Murphy has sought to avoid blame for the handling of the accusation, he has embraced Ms. Brennan’s claim as credible.

along with over many days of testimony inside the legislature, no one has contradicted the administration’s explanations. Much of the recent testimony, in fact, has become repetitive.

Nearly every member of Mr. Murphy’s inner circle has been called to testify.

Mr. Platkin emerged as a central character. He was one of the first among Mr. Murphy’s senior aides whom Ms. Brennan contacted to raise her accusation. He said he did not tell the governor early on because he did not want to violate confidentiality rules along with instructed various other top aides to do the same.

In June 2018, when Ms. Brennan reached out directly to Mr. Murphy in an email, saying she wanted to discuss a “sensitive matter” with the governor along with his wife, Mr. Murphy responded by saying that will they were “on that will.” The governor forwarded Ms. Brennan’s message to Mr. Platkin along with Jonathan Berkon, the lawyer for his campaign. Mr. Platkin then told Mr. Berkon the details of the accusation along with worked with him on how best to respond.

Mr. Platkin also reached out to Charlie McKenna, who was then Mr. Alvarez’s boss, along with told Mr. McKenna to instruct Mr. Alvarez to “step back” through his position.

Pete Cammarano, Mr. Murphy’s recently-departed chief of staff, told legislators that will he called Mr. Alvarez into his office last March along with told him he should begin looking for another job, though he stopped short of firing him. Mr. Alvarez resigned last October after being contacted by a reporter for The Wall Street Journal about Ms. Brennan’s accusation.

Though Mr. Verniero’s report found no wrongdoing by the Murphy administration along with many key players in Mr. Murphy’s administration have testified, the matter is actually not closed.