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Deputy Chief Counsel Parimal Garg.

Special Committee attorneys take tough line on Garg

By Nikita Biryukov, January 08 2019 11:52 am

Attorneys working for the Special Committee on Oversight questioned Gov. Phil Murphy’s Deputy Chief Counsel Parimal Garg in a more hostile manner than other witnesses that have already testified before the committee.

In his opening statement, Garg said State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency Chief of Staff Katie Brennan initially reached out to him at Murphy’s inaugural ball Jan. 16, 2018, saying she had information about “serious wrongdoing” by a senior member of the governor’s then-nascent administration.

She did not tell him about her alleged sexual assault by former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez at that time because Brennan wanted the conversation to be held in a more-private setting, Garg said.

Garg said he advised Brennan that, depending on the nature of the wrongdoing, he might not be able to keep the matter confidential, which he said caused Brennan to reconsider sharing the information at that time.

Michael Critchley, the attorney for the Committee’s Senate cohort, focused took a sharp line of questioning on that exchange, asking whether it was appropriate for Garg, who was already deputy chief counsel at the time, to not inquire about serious wrongdoing of an unknown nature on the part of an unknown public official.

Garg indicated that he told Murphy Chief Counsel Matt Platkin of the exchange and was told that there was no need for further action from Garg. Because of that, Garg said, he believed he acted properly.

It’s still unclear what action Platkin has taken, and that will likely remain the case until Platkin comes to testify before the committee.

Brennan was not an employee of the state at that time.

Joseph Hayden, the attorney for the Assembly cohort of the committee, led a similarly-taut line of questioning on whether it would have been right to tell Murphy of Brennan’s allegations, both when Brennan told Garg she had information about an instance of serious wrongdoing by a senior administration official and in March when Brennan told him the details of her allegations.

Garg testified that he told Platkin because the latter was his direct superior. Murphy has said he first learned of Brennan’s allegations only after a Wall Street Journal reporter reached out for comment on the same in early October 2018.

Garg largely demurred on that point, saying he did not feel he could appropriately answer Hayden’s question.

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