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Senate President Steve Sweeney. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Did Steve Sweeney shoot his wad?

By David Wildstein, October 12 2018 1:54 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney appeared a little too informed on an emerging story about alleged criminal sexual misconduct involving a member of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.  It’s an issue where details have been slow to come out in what has become the worst kept secret in New Jersey: a newspaper is working on something that many believe to be explosive, even though nothing has been published yet.

Patience seems to be wearing thin on over-eager political junkies, perhaps Sweeney included.  Some media entities have scooped their dilatory competitor and reported bits and pieces of a story involving the resignation of Al Alvarez, a former Murphy campaign staffer and administration official who was allegedly investigated for sexual misconduct.

Sweeney has hinted that the Legislature might investigate the Alvarez matter, but stressed that the issue might be premature.

But the Senate President told reporters today that an invitation to a happy hour for Murphy ‘17 alumni next week didn’t include the names of two accusers.

That raises an interesting question: how does Sweeney know who the accusers are, if their names have not been released publicly?  It’s possible that he’s heard what others have, but as the Senate President, he may not want to acknowledge that.

(The invitation might also secure a place on a witness list for Robert Long, who handled human resources for the Murphy campaign and now serves as Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs.  Long will undoubtedly be asked why he didn’t include those so-far anonymous individuals Sweeney is talking about on his invitation list.)

This puts Sweeney in the unenviable position of having to answer questions of what he knows about the fledgling story as he positions himself as the authority to investigate any future allegations.

Then there’s Sweeney’s decision to repeat speculation of a harassment issue that has yet to be written.

“There’s rumors that someone threw a chair at someone too. But again, see, they’re rumors, and I don’t want to jump out and say absolute,” Sweeney said.  “If you have facts, it’s one thing, but right now, there’s not enough facts out there for us to say this is an absolute, so that’s why taking our time, and we’re not slow walking it by any means, but trying to really gather enough facts to really make a decision.”

Again, Sweeney may not want to be the guy repeating rumors while he’s arguing in support of caution.

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