POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Co-chair discusses findings of committee investigating sexual assault allegation

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

Legislative hearings into Murphy staffer Katie Brennan’s rape allegations have looked at who knew about the report of sexual assault and why the Governor was not informed, even as her accused assailant Al Alvarez was hired and allowed to stay on the job after being asked to leave. Lawmakers also asked whether administration policies are strong enough to prevent that kind of thing from recurring. One of the Select Oversight Committee co-chairs, Eliana Pintor Marin, joins Senior Correspondent David Cruz.

Cruz: So, we’ve just completed the fourth hearing of this committee. What’s your takeaway so far?

Pintor Marin: Well, I think the takeaway has been that, you know, obviously there was a lot of people that knew something, but yet no one really took ownership to kind of, own it and figure out what to do and how to move forward.

Cruz: We keep hearing that there were all these barriers — privacy issues, that the person wasn’t technically an employee, but, I mean, it seems crazy to me that such a significant charge — it’s not like, “Oh, he was mean to me” — it was, you know, an allegation of rape that everybody seemed to be like, “Hey man, there’s rules here. There’s confidentiality over there.” I mean, did that, that must have struck you.

Pintor Marin: I think that that’s probably the most striking thing that we’ve been dealing with is, how many people knew along different levels and at different times, and yet there was no follow-ups and closures. So, it becomes a problem, right? And that’s the first thing that I said to you, it’s the ownership piece. There’s a confidentiality, but then you have to own it and then you have to figure out, how do we move forward from this and not have it all exposed. And I think that there’s ways to do that.

Cruz: Do you get the sense that a lot of these people — the governor’s counsel, the transition team counsel, the governor’s chief of staff — do you get the sense that they were trying to protect him or keep him, give him some distance from it, and then had it turn around and now it’s all falling on him?

Pintor Marin: Look, I think that the main thing here, and it we talked about it a couple of times, is the fact that it was an allegation. Obviously Middlesex [County Prosecutor’s Office] is still taking a look at the case, but the problem becomes, this person was alleged of doing something very serious. Is that something that you would like to have part of your administration? Is that something that you would like addressed? And even if they decided to say, “You know what? we knew that this person had an allegation. We talked to him. We spoke to to Ms. Brennan, and this is the recourse that we went and this is a decision that we made,” and I think that people would have respected that — maybe not been happy about it, but I think they would have respected the fact that something was done. A conversation was had and there was some sort of closure.

Cruz: We should say of course that there’s a presumption of innocence, and that the first investigation from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office brought no charges. But the allegation itself was very significant and warrants all this close scrutiny. What did you think of Cammarano’s testimony this week? There were a lot of people — Sen. Beach issued a scathing statement about it today.

Pintor Marin: I think that Pete was in a difficult situation, in the sense that he was going by what his attorney had told him to do, right? And that was Matt Platkin. But I think that at some point, and this question was asked of him — and at one point he even said, “Listen, should I have done more? Absolutely,” I think looking back in hindsight. But at what point does confidentiality go above what a moral thing to do is, right? Would it have been telling the governor? Would it have been having a different type of conversation — more stern, having a timeline with the accused? At least something.

Cruz: So, what’s next? I mean, you have another hearing next week. What do you expect is going to come out of this? Obviously, some suggestions for policy changes, right, at least?

Pintor Marin: So I think that we’ve made that really clear that this is not a committee, just like what Bridgegate was. We are not — we are here, really, to formulate and to figure out we know that sometimes government is a little chaotic, but what policies and procedures can we put forth so that at least there’s different types of streamlines? If something happens to you, David, this is the X person that you go and talk to.

Cruz: At least to know how do you hire this guy because we still don’t know who hired him.

Pintor Marin: I think that that was probably the most shocking so far is we would like to know, how did this person get hired and who really hired him?