Gov. Phil Murphy repeatedly declined to say whether he would distance himself from high-level staffers accused of fostering a hostile work environment during his gubernatorial campaign Tuesday.
“We’re sick of ‘we’re right, you’re wrong. The fact of the matter is that if someone has that perception, whoever they may be, we have made a general and heartfelt and genuine apology,” Murphy said when asked if he would break ties with Brendan Gill, who managed his 2017 bid. “That’s all I’ve got to say on that.”
Longtime Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky has accused Gill, who is Essex County freeholder president, of using the C-word in an argument with her. Gill denies the charge.
Roginsky said she was eventually fired after informing Murphy about ‘rank misogyny’ on the campaign.
Murphy was asked four times about consequences for Gill and his deputy campaign manager, Joe Kelley, who threw a chair at a wall in the presence of a female staffer.
He sidestepped or outright declined to comment each of those times
“Every time anyone raised, has raised, raises today or any time in the future any concerns, whatsoever, about workplace conditions, every single time, those concerns have been taken seriously,” he said. “They’ve been addressed and they’ve been run to ground, and that will continue to be the case.”
Murphy has described the incident between Gill and Roginsky as a disagreement between top staffers.
Roginsky said Gill began retaliating against her after she reported he was soliciting clients for his consulting firm based on his access to Murphy, whose candidacy was then considered near certain to succeed.
Gill denied both charges.
“I have literally nothing else to add,” Murphy said the third time he was asked about the possibility of consequences.
The governor has faced a series of questions related to hostile work conditions, including a sexual assault claim leveled against a high-level campaign staffer who held onto his job in Murphy’s administration for months after the governor’s inner circle was informed about the alleged incident.
State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan accused former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez of sexually assaulting her in April 2017, when he was in charge of Muslim and Latino outreach for Murphy’s campaign, for which Brennan would later volunteer.
A small circle within the governor’s transition team were made aware of the allegations against Alvarez in November 2017, and Brennan directly informed Matt Platkin, Murphy’s chief counsel, about the alleged sexual assault in March 2018.
Alvarez stayed on for months, only resigning after a reporter from the Wall Street Journal contacted him seeking comment on the alleged assault.
Adam Alonso, until recently one of Murphy’s top outside advisers, lost his position as chief of staff at the Democratic National Convention’s host committee over accusations that he bullied and intimidated the organization’s female staffers.
Murphy said he’s since cut ties with Alonso, though no similar distance has been created between him and Gill.
“I’m not going to comment on that specific situation,” Murphy said when asked a fourth time about consequences for campaign staffers accused of fostering a hostile work environment. “But believe me, there are repercussions if people are found to have violated whatever the code of conduct is.”