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State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Brennan sues state, Alvarez, Murphy campaign

By Nikita Biryukov, January 07 2019 1:22 pm

State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan filed a lawsuit against the state and Al Alvarez, whom Brennan has accused of sexually assaulting her, seeking recoup damages and create an exception to confidentiality agreements mandated by some state personnel investigation.

“Through her own experience, Ms. Brennan has seen firsthand how the State uses its ‘confidentiality’ policies to shield and protect wrongdoers and hide complaints of sexual misconduct and discrimination,” said attorney Katy McClure of Smith Eibeler, LLC. “Ms. Brennan’s action today is a step toward critical and meaningful change so that survivors of sexual assault and victims of discrimination and harassment in New Jersey will be heard, respected, and believed, rather than silenced, as Katie has been.”

New Jersey’s Office of Equal Employment and Affirmative Action opened an investigation based on Brennan’s Dec. 4 testimony that she felt alienated by fellow state workers after an account of her alleged assault was published in the Wall Street Journal.

Brennan’s suit says that she was told to keep the contents of the EEO investigation confidential. Under state policy, breaches of such confidentiality agreements carry punishments, including the possibility of termination.

“State officials apparently had no regard for these confidentiality protocols when they told Ms. Brennan’s rapist about her reports,” McClure said. “But conveniently, they cited confidentiality as the reason they withheld the rape complaint from Governor Murphy. The Murphy administration has used confidentiality as a convenient excuse to explain the complete and inexcusable mishandling of a rape case on their watch.”

On Dec. 4, Brennan testified that Alvarez sexually assaulted her on April 9, 2017, when they were both part of Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign.

Alvarez resigned from his role as chief of staff at the Schools Development Authority in early October after being contacted for comment on Brennan’s allegations by a Wall Street Journal Reporter.

According to testimony given by high ranking Murphy administration officials, Alvarez was asked to leave his government job on multiple occasions in the months preceding his resignation.

In addition to hostile work environment claims and attempts to change the state’s confidentiality policy, Brennan is also seeking restitution from Alvarez. Her suit includes charges of assault and battery against Alvarez, who was deputy director of personnel for Murphy’s transition team.

Complicating the matter somewhat are the numerous inquiries into Brennan’s allegations.

A Special Committee on Oversight was convened to investigate the matter. Murphy created an internal investigation into Brennan’s claims that’s being headed by former State Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero, and the Middlesex County Prosecutor is conducting a criminal probe based on the same.

“Now, after forcing Ms. Brennan to tell her story publicly in order to be heard, the State seeks to silence Ms. Brennan under the guise of conducting an investigation; an investigation that if the State had followed its own protocols and policies, should have commenced more than a year ago,” said McClure. “As we have seen in other employment harassment and discrimination matters, if Ms. Brennan cooperates and proceeds with the State’s investigation, she will be required to sign a contract with the State requiring her to adhere to the State’s strict confidentiality directive.”

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