Murphy’s Staff Passed the Buck On Rape Allegation for Months
TRENTON — As lawmakers probed into the inner workers of Phil Murphy's campaign for governor, his transition, and his administration, they could not believe what they were hearing.
Using words like "irresponsible," "offensive," and "heartbreaking," lawmakers were flabbergasted by how multiple staffers handled allegations of rape by one campaign worker against another.
We have extensively detailed how Katie Brennan sought justice for months after alleging fellow campaign staffer Al Alvarez raped her, and her pleas fell on deaf ears.
"This is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman, and to have it treated so lightly by so-called responsible people, it"s just very offensive," said state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson.
On Tuesday, lawmakers summoned more of Murphy's current and former staff to try and determine how this could happen. Each of those testifying painted a picture of zero accountability. One by one, they detailed how the allegations were passed on to someone else or outright ignored.
Stunned lawmakers couldn't believe it. Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, D-Essex, was troubled no one would take ownership of resolving the problem.
"I think that to all of us here, it's just heartbreaking to hear that at every single level and every step, there was just no follow-up," she said.
At one point, deputy chief counsel Parimal Garg admitted he did nothing. Garg said Brennan was a friend, and told him at Murphy's inaugural ball she had information about "serious wrongdoing by a senior administration official," but he took no action because she didn’t give him specifics at that time.
Committee attorney Michael Critchley says Garg's conduct was unacceptable and a shirking of his public duty.
"You are deputy chief counsel. You have a public duty to inquire about things of importance. You had to find out. Because you had explosive words — 'serious wrongdoing,'" Critchley said.
Further mystifying committee members was the fact that every staffer seemed to agree that Al Alvarez had to go, but no one would take actual responsibility to fire him. Lizette Delgado-Polanco said when she interviewed to be CEO of the Schools Development Authority in July, she was told Alvarez would be leaving his job as chief of staff, but she was not told why. She told committee members she would have liked a heads up from the administration.
"It would have been nice," she said. "I would have appreciated it."
Any hope the Murphy administration had for a quick resolution to this scandal was fully dashed on Tuesday. The committee signaled they may broaden their investigation after another Murphy staffer has come forward with allegations of a hostile workplace, and campaign staffers admitted three to five additional staffers had also lodged complaints against the campaign.