TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy’s top attorney said Friday that he didn’t relay to him a state official’s allegations of sexual assault against an administration employee when he first found out about them, six months before the claims became public.
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin testified under oath before a legislative oversight committee that is investigating how Murphy’s administration handled the allegations.
It’s the latest in a series of hearings looking into how the Democratic administration handled Katie Brennan’s allegations of sexual assault against Albert Alvarez. Brennan is the top aide at the state’s housing and mortgage finance agency.
Alvarez served as chief of staff at the schools development authority until October when a Wall Street Journal article detailed for the first time the allegations that dated to April 2017 when they both were working to elect Murphy.
Alvarez has denied the allegations.
Brennan, who went to authorities after the alleged assault, has said the administration botched its response to her allegations and has filed a suit against the state. Charges against Alvarez were not filed by the Hudson County prosecutor, but since the newspaper article, the state attorney general called on the Middlesex County prosecutor to review the case.
On Friday, Platkin said that in hindsight perhaps he should have told the governor about Brennan’s allegations when he first learned of them in March 2018. Lawmakers questioned this decision since the policy in place calls for informing officials who have a “legitimate need to know.”
“I was exercising the judgment at the time I felt was appropriate,” he said. “It’s certainly an appropriate conclusion that I should have told the governor.”
He said he informed the state ethics officer when he learned of the allegations.
Alvarez resigned as Schools Development Authority aide in October when the Wall Street Journal article was published.
Platkin’s testimony is just the latest before the bipartisan committee that is looking into the case with an eye toward updating the government’s employment policies.
Earlier testimony revealed that Murphy chief of staff Pete Cammarano asked Alvarez to leave government twice, once in March and again in June but stopped short of firing him.
In her testimony, Brennan said she was told that Alvarez would be leaving the administration but that weeks passed while he remained in his job.
She said she tried to go through the proper channels but only saw results after she told her story to the Wall Street Journal.
Murphy has hired former Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero to look into how his office handled the allegations.