Who hired accused rapist Alvarez? Sweeney says ‘Just tell us!’
When Al Alvarez, the former Murphy staffer accused of raping another while they were both working on the campaign, finally appears before a joint legislative committee investigating the hiring practices of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, will we finally learn who actually hired him?
Senate President Stephen Sweeney is among those frustrated by what he has heard from a parade of witnesses who worked for the Murphy campaign, transition and new administration -- that no one seems to know how Alvarez got the job as chief of Staff for the Schools Development Corporation.
Appearing on Townsquare Media's New Jersey 101.5, Sweeney indicated he does not believe Murphy officials have been forthcoming.
“They’ve been filibustering us for all this time,” Sweeney said. The senate president called it both comical and disappointing: “Just say it. Just tell us who. Someone had to hire him.” Committee Member Senator Sandra Cunningham has said she suspects it was Murphy who signed off on Alvarez’ hiring, though Murphy has repeatedly denied it.
The inability of the committee to determine who actually hired Alvarez has hindered the committee’s ability to dig deeper into the hiring practices of the Murphy administration, and the Schools Development Authority. Alvarez was SDA chief when CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco fired dozens of staffers, and replaced them with family and friends making combined salaries of $3.3 million.
Sweeney says “he’s not new to politics,” and understands wanting to bring in your own people when administrations change, but worries about the way it was done and the loss of institutional knowledge. Questions have already been raised about the qualifications of the new hires, and Sweeney expects legislators to question Alvarez about it when he appears before the joint committee.
The SDA has issued a statement saying the SDA chief of staff (Alvarez) was involved in the personnel decisions. Murphy said he was looking into it.
Legislators will not be asking Alvarez about the sexual assault allegations that triggered this scandal. Sweeney confirms the topic is off-limits, due to pending litigation. Alvarez was accused by Katie Brennen of sexually assaulting her when both worked for the Murphy campaign. He has not been charged, despite investigations by both the Hudson and Middlesex County Prosecutor. On Friday, Alvarez’s attorney filed a lawsuit to force prosecutors to turn over their investigative files, arguing both he and the legislative committee have a right to review those documents. If those documents are released, the committee may revisit the original allegations by Brennen.
Sweeney said he wants “to make sure government does the right thing when someone is accused.”
Before any of that can happen, however, the committee must first determine who hired Alvarez.
“We just want an answer,” Sweeney said, “and we have to make it so this doesn’t happen again.”