POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Former Murphy official says he was falsely accused of rape, doesn’t know who hired him

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Al Alvarez arrived amid a scrum of media and a swirl of news about his alleged sexual assault of Katie Brennan during the campaign. Tests showed DNA from the case reportedly was not his, according to prosecutor’s files obtained by his lawyer and published by Politico. Alvarez adamantly denied Brennan’s allegations.

“These false allegations have devastated my career and brought an emotional toll upon myself and my loved ones,” he said.

It was Alvarez’s career with the Murphy administration that occupied a day of testimony before the Select Oversight Committee which often conflicted with the record. After repeated questions, there’s still no answer to who precisely hired Al Alvarez for his $140,000 a year job at the Schools Development Authority. He’s not sure either.

“I can’t tell you that I know who specifically said, ‘You’re hired.’ I can tell you honestly that I expressed interest there and no one objected to me going there,” he said.

Alvarez said that after Phil Murphy’s election, he discussed the administration job he wanted with Murphy’s chief of staff, Pete Cammarano, and with transition team head Jose Lozano.

“He advised me that the SDA CEO position was not going to be available, that Mr. McKenna was going to stay, but the chief of staff position was available and would I be interested in that. And I said, yes,” he said.

Alvarez explained he talked to the Schools Development Authority’s chief Charlie McKenna about the new job, and asserted nothing would’ve happened without the approval of Cammarano and Murphy’s Chief Counsel Matt Platkin.

“All these decisions and recommendations that we would make on potential hires had to go through Mr. Cammarano, Mr. Platkin and Mr. Lozano,” Alvarez said.

“Do you agree with Mr. Lozano’s statement that it’s a safe assumption that either one of those two, meaning Platkin or Cammarano, approved your employment at SDA?” committee co-counsel Michael Critchley asked.

“Yes,” Alvarez replied.

Here’s the rub: Platkin, Cammarano and Lozano have all previously testified and all denied actually hiring Alvarez. Lozano’s also testified they never discussed salaries. Moreover, after Katie Brennan again complained about Alvarez to Murphy’s front office in March, Cammarano said he sternly directed Alvarez to leave, but that’s not what Alvarez heard.

“What was your understanding, the thrust of Mr Cammarano’s message was to you?” said the committee’s co-counsel, Joseph Hayden.

“My take-away was that it was not a direction,” Alvarez said. “I came away feeling that he was making it clear he would prefer that I leave state government.”

Alvarez said he never really looked for another job until June. That’s when Brennan emailed the governor and McKenna subsequently told Alvarez to leave state employment, but without setting a deadline. He said Platkin did agree to help him find another job, but Platkin doesn’t recall that. In August, while under orders to leave, Alvarez actually scored a $30,000 raise. He finally resigned on Oct. 2 after The Wall Street Journal called him about their impending story on Brennan’s accusations and the Murphy administration said it flatly ordered him to resign or be fired.

“There was no formalizing of the hiring process,” said co-chair Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin.

“If there had been a paper trail, a memorization of the process, then we would be able to answer that question,” said co-vice chair Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz.

Committee members said they’d review testimony, especially discrepancies. They might even recall witnesses as they prepare a final report.