Murphy hiring scandal is not going away
TRENTON — A 75-page report on how an accused rapist managed to get hired into a senior job with Gov. Phil Murphy's administration has done little to quell the scandal.
Murphy said the report, compiled by former state Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero, revealed "hard truths." What it did not do is provide many answers, and any hope Murphy had that this report would make the scandal go away were quickly dashed.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, dismissed the Verniero report, saying it fell short of the comprehensive report the governor promised.
"There continues to be too many unanswered questions, too many (inconsistencies) and contradictions, and too many people unable to provide a true accounting," Weinberg said in a statement released after the report was made public Wednesday.
Weinberg and other members of the legislative committee looking into the hiring of Al Alvarez, and his prior alleged rape of fellow former campaign staffer Katie Brennan, have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of answers from current and former members of the administration and campaign staff. They have consistently failed to even describe how the hiring process worked during the transition.
The Verniero report offered little clarity. It does not answer one of the most basic questions: Who hired Alvarez? That question has vexed the legislative committee from the start, and frustrations among committee members boiled over on Tuesday.
There are some on the committee who believe the Verniero report was nothing more than the governor trying to cover his own behind. The report goes to great lengths to say that Murphy did not know about the allegations against Alvarez when he was hired. Multiple current and former Murphy staffers and campaign workers have insisted the governor was unaware. Committee members don’t buy that.
After the alleged assault, Brennan emailed the governor directly to ask for help, and he responded almost immediately, "We know you well. We're on it."
When trying to figure out who hired Alvarez, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, suggested the order came from the governor himself, and the head of hiring for the transition didn't deny it was possible.
Committee members had intended to finish their investigation before budget negotiations begin in a few weeks, but are now not sure if that's possible. A lack of answers from administration officials are not just frustrating lawmakers, but also making them angry and more determined to figure out how this happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
Murphy is already facing a lawsuit from Brennan. If the legislative probe drags on, it will continue to impede his ability to advance his progressive agenda, and undermine his credibility with New Jersey residents already wary of how costly that agenda could be.
Eric Scott is Vice President, Senior Political Director and Director of Special Projects for New Jersey 101.5. He anchors "New Jersey's First News" and weekday morning newscasts from 5 to 10 a.m., in addition to hosting a bimonthly Town Hall series.
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