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Former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero

Verniero did not learn who hired Alvarez

By Nikita Biryukov, February 06 2019 9:36 am

Peter Verniero’s investigation into the hiring of former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez was not able to uncover who gave him that position.

“No witness during our interviews or before the Legislature stated that he or she hired Mr. Alvarez or recommended him for placement at the SDA. Nor did anyone identify the person who did,” Verniero’s report said. “Additionally, there does not appear to be any documentary evidence that answers that question. Nor have we had the opportunity to interview Mr. Alvarez.”

The Select Committee on Oversight’s investigation has similarly been unable figure out who offered Alvarez the SDA position.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s transition chair Lozano and former Murphy chief of staff Cammarano appear to have had some involvement in Alvarez’s hiring, though both deny they were the ones to give him the SDA job. Murphy chief counsel Platkin, Verniero’s report said, appears to have had no input on that decision.

Transition director of personnel Lynn Haynes testified Tuesday that Lozano, Cammarano and Platkin had the authority to hire Alvarez. Platkin, she said, was in charge of hiring for positions at state Authorities, she said.

But, even with the identity of the one who actually hired Alvarez unclear, Verniero’s team concluded that transition offices should maintain more detailed records about hiring decisions. The recommendation follows another made by the former State Supreme Court Justice that recommends governors be allowed to create their transition teams before the conclusion of the campaign.

“We are left to conclude that, regardless of who made the ultimate hiring decision, Mr. Alvarez’s placement at the SDA was a foregone conclusion based on his affiliation with the Murphy campaign and the transition office, and due to the fact that he was well known and presumably viewed positively within the Murphy hiring circle,” Verniero’s report said.

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

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