Gov. Phil Murphy’s re-election campaign has hired a human resources firm to administer a wide-ranging program that will include workplace culture issues and mandatory sexual harassment training to avoid some of the pitfalls that led to allegations of sexual assault and misogyny during the governor’s 2017 campaign.
The campaign will use Culturupt, a South Orange-based HR and workplace investigation firm headed by Ritu Pancholy, to provide employee relations support, diversity services and bias training for campaign staff and consultants working for the firm, according to campaign manager Mollie Binotto.
“Running a successful campaign means building a healthy and empowering workplace culture based on respect, inclusion, and professionalism,” Binotto said. “We’re excited to partner with Ritu and Culturupt to ensure that Murphy for Governor 2021 adheres to the highest standards of workplace conduct and HR best practices. Building an inclusive and welcoming work environment is our highest priority.”
Murphy’s re-election campaign said Culturupt will also offer create a campaign code of conduct and polices, develop a structure to report and investigate complaints, and help the campaign resolve workplace environment issues, if any develop.
“I am excited to work with Governor Murphy, First Lady Tammy Murphy, and the entire Murphy for Governor 2021 team,” stated Pancholy. “Now, more than ever, creating the right culture and environment in a campaign is critical. Taking these proactive steps to build a respectful culture in the workplace at the start of the campaign will ensure that it remains a priority throughout the campaign.”
The Murphy campaign was sued in 2018 after a former volunteer, Katie Brennan, alleged that she was raped by Al Alvarez, a senior campaign official.
Brennan and Alvarez were ultimately hired to serve in the Murphy administration, but Alvarez resigned as chief of staff of the Schools Development Authority in October 2018 after the Wall Street Journal contacted him for comment on Brenan’s claims against him.
Brennan contacted police in April 2017, but prosecutors in two counties who reviewed the case declined to file charges against Alvarez.
The issue became the subject of a probe by a legislative panel after the public learned that senior Murphy administration officials knew about the allegations against Alvarez before he was hired.
Peter Cammarano, who was Murphy’s chief of staff in 2018, admitted to legislators that he asked Alvarez to step down in March 2018 but never followed up on why he remained in his job six months later.
The lawsuit was settled for $1 million, with $600,000 going to the Waterfront Project, a Jersey City-based non-profit that provides low-income Hudson County residents with free legal services. The balance went to pay Brennan’s lawyer.
Two of Murphy’s potential Republican opponents, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and former GOP State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, announced last year that they opposed non-disclosure agreements for campaign staffers and consultants.
Ciattarelli named former State Sen. Diane Allen to oversee anti-harassment policies for his campaign. Steinhardt said the state GOP would deny party support to any candidate who required NDAs from staffers.
The Murphy campaign said that Culturupt has previously partnered with the Demcoratic State Committee on workplace culture issues.