Next 11 days critical for Murphy
The New Jersey Statehouse has been abuzz with talk about what comes next for the Murphy administration with regard to the Katie Brennan rape allegations, and the administration's seeming inaction on her pleas for justice. Her testimony before a joint legislative committee was universally believed to be credible, and sets the stage for some very difficult questions to be asked as the committee continues its work.
The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18. Just who the next witnesses will be are not clear. Committee co-chair Senator Loretta Weinberg, has not ruled out calling Gov. Phil Murphy. Murphy also didn't rule out appearing before the committee. The committee will almost certainly call members of the current administration and the members of the governor’s former campaign.
The committee members has insisted they are most interested in reforming how political hires are made. Brennan raised questions when she revealed she was hired for a high level job without a formal interview or even filling out an application. However, the committee members also know they cannot ignore looking deeper into what allowed an alleged rape victim to be ignored and her alleged attacker, Al Alvarez, to land a high profile job in the Murphy administration.
Internally, senior staff in the governor’s office are looking for a way out as they fear a prolonged investigation will only further weaken a governor who has struggled to find allies in the Legislature. During her testimony, Brennan listed the people she spoke with in Murphy’s office. They included: Chief Counsel Matt Platkin, Deputy Chief Counsel Parimal Garg, Deputy Chief of Staff Justin Braz, and Chief Ethics Officer Heather Taylor. All of them are likely to be called to testify before the joint legislative committee and one or more of them may take the fall for Murphy. A consensus seems to be forming it will be Taylor.
Brennan’s testimony details months of trying to get someone to take action, and what appeared to be a lot of passing the buck. It was Taylor, the ethics officer, who eventually informed Brennan there was nothing the state could do to help her because neither she nor Alvarez were employed by the state at the time of the alleged sexual assault.
The next 11 days will be critical for Murphy while the committee continues its work ahead of the next hearing. The loyalty and competency of his staff will be tested. He will have to find sufficient answers to: “What did you know, when did you know it, and what did you do about it?” And he will have to do this while a skeptical Legislature and temperamental public is paying close attention.
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