The New Jersey Schools Development Authority gave Al Alvarez 20% raise weeks before he abruptly resigned amidst allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman during the 2017 gubernatorial campaign, according to a state government source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Alvarez’s salary jumped from $140,000 to $170,000 on September 15, a little more than two weeks before his resignation.
The pay increase resulted from a plan by Lizette Delgado-Polanco, who succeeded Charles McKenna as chief executive officer of the authority in August, to more fairly compensate employees – many of whom had not received pay increases for several years. Delgado-Polanco also sought to balance a gender gap in salaries to provide equal pay to women at the authority.
In August, Delgado-Polanco increased the salaries of seven senior employees and some non-senior staff.
Delgado-Polanco did not increase her own $225,000 annual salary, which is the same as McKenna made.
McKenna’s predecessor, Mark Larkins, was made $195,000 before being replaced by McKenna in 2014 for $30,000 more a year. After that, McKenna took no raises before the Murphy administration replaced him last August.
The source said that Delgado-Polanco, who also serves as vice chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, made the decision to raise salaries within their current budget. That meant she did not approval from the authority board or from the Murphy administration. Gov. Phil Murphy has no veto power over authority actions.
The pay hike for Alvarez came before Delgado-Polanco knew about the allegations against Alvarez. On Saturday, a third women, Sylvia Jáuregui, accused Alvarez of spiking her drink and sexually assaulting her.
McKenna told Delgado-Polanco that Alvarez was leaving the authority, but did not explain why, the source said.
It is unclear whether McKenna, a former chief counsel to Gov. Chris Christie, knew about the specific allegations against Alvarez. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Murphy’s chief counsel told McKenna that Alvarez should “separate himself” from his state position. McKenna told the WSJ that he had a conversation with Alvarez, who said he would leave but gave no specific time frame.
It is also unclear whether Delgado-Polanco knew about allegations made by Katie Brennan, a former Murphy for Governor volunteer who now holds a top post in the administration, from another source.
Because Delgado-Polanco knew that Alvarez was planning to leave, she decided to set the chief of staff salary at $170,000 to attract a better candidate, the source said. That salary is consistent with what other top officials at the Schools Development Authority make.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a 1:03 PM e-mail seeking comment.