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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Murphy backing ad hoc committee

‘Count us in,’ governor says with few qualifications

By Nikita Biryukov, January 02 2020 1:12 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy offered only slightly-conditional support to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg’s ad hoc committee investigating sexual harassment, assault and misogyny in Trenton Thursday.

“If the objective here is to find a better place in the state, and if it’s a true whole-of-government approach and a whole-of-society approach outside of the government, then count us in,” Murphy said. “I think we’ll be measured here by actions and not words.”

Weinberg created the committee — which will include veteran lobbyist Jeannine LaRue, political operative Julie Roginsky and Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Senate Majority Counsel Alison Accettola and Senate Minority Executive Director Christine Shipley — following an NJ.com report that showed harassment and other predatory behavior was still widespread in New Jersey politics.

The senator said she expects the committee’s membership to be finalized sometime this week, though it’s unclear how, if at all, public pleas by some groups will affect that timeline.

Murphy’s support for the ad hoc committee appears stronger than his support for a select committee Weinberg chaired last year.

That body investigated sexual assault allegations leveled by state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan against former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez.

Some women told NJ Advance media they did not report incidents of sexual harassment or assault, with some even citing Brennan’s experience to back up their reasoning.

Brennan has said she was ostracized after publicly revealing her accusations to the Wall Street Journal in October 2018.

Murphy said the apparent chilling effect Trenton’s culture was having on the reporting of sex crimes was a major problem.

“That’s awful. That should never be the case,” he said. “It should never be the case, period.”

Still, the governor said he wasn’t surprised by the apparent resilience of New Jersey politics’ culture of misogyny.

“It’s pretty shocking article, and I wish I were completely surprised, but I wasn’t,” Murphy said. “And I suspect most of us weren’t.”

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