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New Jersey State Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean, Jr., (R-Westfield)

Kean: Trenton must tackle sexual harassment, assault

By Nikita Biryukov, December 30 2019 5:57 pm

Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean joined his Democratic counterpart in calling for the capital city to put more work into fighting misogyny, sexual harassment and sexual assault following an NJ Advance Media report that said such problems still ran rampant in Trenton.

“Whenever you start to think we’ve made progress in improving the culture in Trenton, a story like this comes out that proves you wrong,” said Kean. “It’s clear that a much greater focus needs to be placed on addressing the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault to protect everyone who works in New Jersey government, politics, and government affairs.”

Kean said his caucus is prepared to push for further protections against sexual assault and harassment through the Legislative Select Committee empaneled to investigate the hiring of former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez.

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

That committee has since sunset, and Democrats have shown little intention of restarting it, but Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg on Monday announced the creation of an ad hoc committee to address the problems raised in the NJ.com report.

Last year, the legislature adopted new harassment policies aimed to increase protections for victims, but it’s not clear how effective those rules have been at stemming sexually predatory behavior at outside events, like parties during the League of Municipalities convention and the State Chamber of Commerce’s annual Walk to Washington.

And while the select committee’s report recommended reforms that have been passed by the legislature, Murphy has not yet signed the bills.

No one was fired in relation to Brennan’s alleged assault.

“It opened the eyes of many people in Trenton when an insider with access to the highest levels of state government, including the Governor himself, couldn’t find the justice she sought for an alleged sexual assault,” Kean said. “We’re concerned that Ms. Brennan’s experience may discourage other victims from coming forward to tell their stories, which appears to be the case based on the recent reports. It’s clear there’s still more work for us to do.”

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