N.J. Governor Orders Probe Into Hiring Process of Top Official Accused of Sexual Assault
A scandal touches Trenton, as the former chief of staff of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, Albert J. Alvarez, steps down from his $140,000-a-year job after being accused of sexual assault.
Katie Brennan, age 31, chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency, gave a detailed account of the alleged sexual assault back in April 2017. When Alvarez and Brennan were colleagues on Phil Murphy’s campaign for governor, Alvarez gave Brennan a ride home after an event for the Latino and Muslim community outreach. Brennan was a volunteer campaign aide and worked with the director, Alvarez.
Instead of dropping her off, once they arrived at her home, Brennan said he asked to use the bathroom. When Alvarez got inside, he pushed Brennan down onto the couch, groped and digitally penetrated her.
Brennan told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Sunday that she yelled, “‘Stop, why are you doing this'” “And then I straight up said: ‘This is not consensual.'”
She said Alvarez did not back down and ripped off her pants and underwear before she broke loose from him and locked herself in the bathroom until he left.
The following day, Brennan underwent a sexual assault examination at the Jersey City Medical Center Emergency Department. Brennan said she had reported the assault initially to Hudson County prosecutors, and regularly followed up with them, but to no avail. Alvarez was never charged.
After the Wall Street Journal article published, Brennan issued a statement, which said, in part:
“On April 8th, 2017, Al Alvarez raped me. On April 9th, 2017 I learned that the system is broken.
“Several senior level members of the Murphy administration were aware of my assault and failed to take meaningful action. Al Alvarez remained employed at a senior level in the Murphy administration until just a few weeks ago, when he knew the Wall Street Journal article was coming out and opted to resign. The failure of members of Gov. Murphy’s staff to respond in an aggressive, proactive fashion is unacceptable.”
According to NJ.com, a Murphy spokesman said Murphy and his wife, Tammy, were not informed of the allegations until Oct. 2 when Alvarez resigned.
Such charges would have had significant effects in the hiring of Alvarez to a top position in the Murphy camp.
“I wish we hadn’t made the hire in transition, period,” Murphy said in a press conference on Monday. “I’m sick to my stomach once I heard what happened.”
Governor Murphy’s office has hired an independent investigator to probe into the allegations against Alvarez. In addition, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has begun an investigation as to why Alvarez was never charged with assault.
“We will not follow the lead of Washington,” Murphy told the press. “This will be a real investigation.”
Through an attorney, Alvarez denied that he assaulted Brennan.