Former Murphy Administration Official Accused in Separate Rape Allegations

In a Wall Street Journal story by reporter Kate King published on Sunday, October 14, 2018, a top official in Governor Phil Murphy’s administration claims she was raped on April 8, 2017 during the gubernatorial campaign by a high ranking Trenton official.

Katie Brennan, 31, of Jersey City, the Chief of Staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, says Albert Alvarez, the Chief of Staff at the New Jersey Schools Development Authority at the time, committed the alleged crime and nothing has been done to assist her gain justice.

On Monday, October 15, 2018, a second woman came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Alvarez, the former Murphy administration official who resigned abruptly earlier this month after reports began to surface of a sexual misconduct allegation from 2017. The second woman claims the incident with Alvarez took place when the two were students at Rutgers Law School in Newark, graduating in 2001. She outlined her allegations in a letter to the Governor and Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver dated October 11 after watching the Senate confirmation hearings of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In a statement released yesterday, Brennan said, “I have pursued every form of justice available. But it has become clear that this system is not built for survivors.” Brennan says she came forward because, “Al Alvarez, and all perpetrators, must be held accountable, must never rape again, and the justice system needs a complete change with regard to sexual violence.” According to the WSJ article, Brennan says she was offered a $15,000 settlement, which she turned down. That settlement included a non-disclosure agreement. Brennan also alleges that she was told by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office that there was not enough evidence for a jury to indict Alvarez and “several senior members of the Murphy administration” knew about the alleged rape but “failed to take any meaningful action.”

Governor Murphy has stated that the allegations by Brennan were handled appropriately, but he admits the hiring of Alvarez was a mistake. Governor Murphy has asked Mamta Patel, the Director of the Statewide Division of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action within the Civil Service Commission, to review New Jersey’s policies and procedures on the best way to address allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse. In addition, the Governor says that former State Attorney General Peter Verniero will lead an investigation into the hiring practices of the Administration.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, meanwhile, has moved any further investigation involving the alleged rape of Brennan by Alvarez out of Hudson County because of a potential conflict of interest. Reportedly, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez has been friends with Alvarez for years and she also is believed to have had a personal relationship with Brennan as well. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office maintains that those facts did not hinder their 2017 investigation. Prosecutor Suarez decided it was best to request that the Division of Criminal Justice supersede the case, which has now been transferred to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. Any additional investigative actions they deem appropriate will be taken.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike have issued statements indicating that the residents of New Jersey deserve a full and straightforward investigation into what happened during the gubernatorial campaign, the transition period and the time since Governor Murphy’s administration has been in office. As of this date, Alvarez has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

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