Analysis: Will Ex-staffer, Accused of Rape, Call Gov. Murphy a Liar?
The only person who may actually know who hired accused rapist Al Alvarez to a senior position in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has been ordered to appear before the joint legislative committee looking into the matter.
That person is Alvarez himself.
The former campaign worker and Chief of Staff for the Schools Development Corporation had declined to appear before the committee, but has now been subpoenaed to compel him to answer the committee’s questions. He is scheduled to testify next Tuesday. The subpoena was first reported by the Star Ledger.
Committee co-chair Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, says in that report testimony will be limited to hiring practices, and there will be no discussion about the alleged sexual assault of a former campaign worker. Aside from his own hiring issue, Alvarez may also be questioned about a purge of veteran staffers at the SDA to make way for friends and relatives of the agency’s new CEO.
For weeks, frustration and anger among committee members has been building as a parade of Murphy administration, transition, and campaign officials have been unable to answer the most basic question of who signed off on Alvarez’ hire. Even the independent report commissioned by the governor, and compiled by former State Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero, did not clearly identify who ultimately signed off on the hire.
Alvarez’s testimony could be bad for Governor Murphy. He is not likely to have much loyalty to an administration that fired him despite no criminal charges ever being filed against him.
Some have suggested it was Murphy himself who signed off on the Alvarez hiring. During testimony last month, State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, said, "(Murphy) obviously knew all the players. ... It seems to me that it's very simple for the governor to say, 'Hey, take care of Al.'”
Cunningham asked the hiring manager for the transition, Lynn Haynes, directly if Murphy gave the order. Haynes uncomfortably sat silent for 18 seconds, then didn't deny it was possible. She took a deep breath before answering: "That wasn't part of the process, having the governor involved, and so I don't know. I would just be speculating."
Murphy has denied he was the one who ordered the hiring. If Alvarez contradicts that, it will further call into question the truthfulness of all of Murphy’s statements on this scandal. That includes Murphy’s denial he knew anything about the rape allegations against Alvarez until he read about it in the Wall Street Journal last year.
With most of the governor’s senior staff and advisers apparently aware of the situation for months before Alvarez was finally forced to leave, it’s hard for many to believe Murphy couldn’t know.