'This should never have happened': Murphy administration investigates how alleged rapist got top state job

A state official accused, reported another of sexual assault in April 2017

Ian Bush
October 15, 2018 - 3:28 pm
Gov. Phil Murphy

Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com via USA Today Images

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NEWARK, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — The news conference Monday was supposed to be about the Gov. Phil Murphy's upcoming trip to Germany and Israel. Instead, he was responding to a report that suggests multiple points of failure starting with the period before he took office.

"Let me be absolutely and unequivocally clear: This should never have happened," he said.

Murphy admitted his administration failed a state official who accused another of sexual assault. He has ordered an independent investigation into what happened — and to come up with new rules to better support victims.

The letter of the law was followed, the governor said, but that left Katie Brennan, state housing agency chief of staff, without a sympathetic ear.

"The voices must be heard. We must stand with the Katies of the world, and that did not happen," said Murphy. "It makes me sick to my stomach that Katie went through what she went through and is going through what she's going through."

Brennan said she was attacked by Albert Alvarez in April 2017, when both were working on the Murphy campaign, during which Gov. Chris Christie was still in office. 

"I wish we hadn't made the hire in the transition. Period. I'm sick to my stomach once I heard what happened, obviously," he added.

Brennan told police and was examined at a hospital, but prosecutors didn't file charges. Alvarez cleared a background check and was named chief of staff at the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.

Alvarez, who denies the allegations, has since resigned from his position this month.

"We are going to demand real accountability and conduct a real and exhaustive independent investigation into how this hire was allowed to go forward in transition," Murphy continued.

Murphy's chief counsel knew about it in the spring of 2018, as did his ethics officer and the attorney general's office, according to a senior administration official who spoke with The Wall Street Journal. 

Brennan also emailed the governor and first lady in June about a "sensitive matter" but did not get a meeting. Murphy said he did not know about the specific allegation until Oct. 2.

The independent investigation ordered by Murphy will examine how Alvarez was allowed to be hired in the first place, and the failures along the way in terms of state policy and law enforcement.

A lawyer for Alvarez added that he "absolutely denies these allegations of sexual assault."