Home>Governor>Verniero: Transition should have asked Braz for more info

Gov. Phil Murphy deputy chief of staff Justin Braz, center, with attorneys Christopher Porrino, left, and Matthew Boxer (NIKITA BIRYUKOV PHOTO)

Verniero: Transition should have asked Braz for more info

By Nikita Biryukov, February 06 2019 10:18 am

A report on the hiring of former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez compiled by former State Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero said transition officials were obligated to take action after learning of the allegations against Alvarez.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s former chief of staff Pete Cammarano and transition executive director Jose Lozano did not take any action after they were told of Brennan’s allegations by Murphy’s now-deputy chief of staff Justin Braz because they believed Braz was telling them about the alleged assault against the victim’s wishes.

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.

Because of the seriousness of the allegations, Verniero’s report said, Cammarano and Lozano were required to do something.

While the two did attempt to limit Alvarez’s hiring authority to prevent Alvarez retaliating against Brennan — Verniero’s report notes that his team did not find any documentation to support this — they did not conduct an investigation into the sexual assault allegations or speak with Alvarez about the same.

They also did not seek more information from Braz. Brennan told the Select Committee on Oversight that she would likely have provided more information if Braz had asked her to at the behest of transition officials and was surprised by the lack of follow-up at the time.

Still, Verniero’s report said his team believed transition officials acted in good faith, even if they did not do everything right.

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