Oversight Committee members discuss Brennan report on eve of release

Katie Brennan gave powerful testimony before the Select Oversight Committee and said the Murphy administration ignored her complaint that she’d been raped in April 2017, allegedly by former campaign staffer Al Alvarez. After spending months investigating how the administration handled Brennan’s case and others the bipartisan committee will issue its report.

“I don’t think Katie Brennan was heard. And maybe in the release of this report, there will be a little bit of a voice given to her,” said committee co-chair Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

Weinberg didn’t want to give details, but committee member Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz says the report finds the administration should have investigated Brennan’s claims, especially before it went ahead and hired Alvarez at $140,000 a year.

“Rape is a crime. It should have been investigated. It wasn’t taken seriously enough because they should have done more questioning of Al Alvarez before they hired him and they did not do that,” Munoz said. “I think that there was a sense that we’ll sort of brush it under the mat and it’ll go away.”

Alvarez has staunchly denied Brennan’s claim, and two prosecutors declined to bring charges citing lack of evidence. But Munoz says the report points to other major errors by Murphy’s inner circle, especially that nobody told the governor about Brennan’s accusations against an administration employee.

“They misunderstood that part of the law. The governor was the immediate supervisor and he had a right to know. By not telling the governor they made a mistake. He should’ve been told,” said Munoz.

The administration told Alvarez to leave state employment twice, but he didn’t actually resign until The Wall Street Journal contacted him about Brennan’s story. Munoz says the committee report faults a lack of paper trails around hiring and firing. The committee’s conclusions come four months after another report commissioned by Gov. Phil Murphy and prepared by former Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero which blamed the system, stating the administration had acted in “good faith.”

“What does that mean, everybody acted in good faith? There are rules, regulations, laws that should have been followed. And the Verniero report, using the word ‘the system,’ which is the very word I will always fight against. The system is made up of people and you can’t just wipe a slate clean by saying it’s ‘the system’ that did it,” Weinberg said.

Weinberg says the committee report will include a framework for legislation to try and fix what went wrong. Murphy’s office had no comment. NJTV News didn’t hear back from attorneys for Brennan or Alvarez.