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State Attorney General chief of staff Melissa Lieberman. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Lieberman, Grewal spoke about Alvarez

By Nikita Biryukov, February 05 2019 5:47 pm

Melissa Lieberman, chief of staff to State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, told Grewal and two other high-ranking individuals within his office about allegations against former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez last March.

Lieberman told the Select Committee empaneled to investigate Alvarez hiring that she did not recall the content of that conversation.

State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan has accused Alvarez of sexually assaulting her in April 2017, when he was in charge of Muslim and Latino outreach for Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign, for which Brennan would later volunteer.

Lieberman was not told the full scope of Brennan’s allegations. She believed Alvarez was accused of sexual harassment, not sexual assault.

Heather Taylor, the governor’s chief ethics officer, reached out to Lieberman instead of the designated equal employment opportunity officer within the Attorney General’s office at the request of Murphy chief counsel Matt Platkin.

Lieberman said she was not sure if Grewal ever spoke with Platkin about the matter but added that she had no reason to believe he did.

Some who have testified have called the handling of Brennan’s EEO complaint irregular, and Lieberman offered an explanation as to why that might be Tuesday.

She did not consider Brennan’s case to be a formal complaint when made aware of it. Instead, she considered it an inquiry about whether the state’s EEO policy would apply in Brennan’s case. That distinction was part of the reason behind the lack of documents related to Brennan’s complaint.

The only documents related to the matter are Taylor’s notes from her phone calls with Lieberman.

Lieberman’s involvement in Brennan’s case was limited to a bare handful of days, between March 22 and March 27, it took the office to decide that Brennan’s case was not within their jurisdiction because neither she nor Alvarez were government employees at the time and the incident did not occur on state property.

The committee’s next hearing date has yet to be set, and witnesses for the same have not been announced.

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