NJ settles Murphy campaign rape accusation for $1M
TRENTON — A former Phil Murphy campaign staffer who accused an official of raping her has settled her lawsuit against the state and her accuser for $1 million.
Katie Brennan went public with her accusations against Al Alvarez in October 2018, saying that despite having alerted campaign officials about what happened, the administration hired Alvarez anyway.
Alvarez has denied the accusations, saying the interactions he had with Brennan were consensual. After the Wall Street Journal broke the story of Brennan's accusations, he was forced from his job as chief of staff at the Schools Development Authority although he was never prosecuted or charged with a crime despite an investigation by the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office.
The state of New Jersey and the Murphy campaign will be responsible for paying the $1 million amount, with $400,000 going to Brennan's attorneys at the firm Smith Eibeler.
Brennan will donate her $600,000 share of the settlement to The Waterfront Project, a Hudson County legal nonprofit that aids economically disadvantaged people and that will use the funds to provide legal services for survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
Alvarez will not pay part of the settlement but the agreement requires him to participate with Brennan in a confidential "restorative justice process" and attend an anti-sexual harassment class, although he does not admit any wrongdoing. He also will drop his countersuit that claimed that her allegations made it difficult for him to find a new job.
The accusations led to an legislative investigation into the way the Murphy administration handled the situation and other proposed reforms.
Earlier this year, Murphy lifted a nondisclosure agreement on 2017 campaign staffers, allowing them to openly discuss their experiences. Murphy had previously resisted calls to get rid of the gag rule, which is common among campaigns.
As part of the settlement, the state also agreed to allow state government employees who are alleged victims of discrimination, harassment or retaliation to have an advisor or support person during interviews by an Equal Employment Opportunity investigator.
“I hope that this can create a model program for other New Jersey survivors,” Brennan said in written statement. “Living in silence did not serve me or any other survivors in this state. Speaking out gave me great strength. From legislation and the release from NDAs, to greater awareness
of harassment and assault, we’ve made great progress. Each reform sets us on a path toward justice. Each reform makes it worth the pain.”
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.