Senate President Steve Sweeney on Friday said the legislature may launch an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former School Development Authority chief of staff Albert Alvarez, though he added that such an investigation would, at this point, be premature.
“Well listen, first, we’re just gathering information right now, and if what we’re hearing is real, then we’re going to have to deal with it,” Sweeney said. “Right now, we’re just gathering information.”
Alvarez, who was also deputy director of Gov. Phil Murphy’s transition team, abruptly resigned from his post at the authority.
So far, Sweeney said, the legislature’s knowledge of the alleged incident has largely been limited to media reports on the matter, and the legislative leaders are waiting gather more information before reaching out to law enforcement officials that investigated the allegations against Alvarez, who also served as director of Latino outreach for Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign.
“We haven’t done any of that because, right now, that’s not for us to do,” Sweeney said when asked if he had reached out to the Attorney General or the Hudson County Prosecutor. “We’ve read reports, and again, the speaker and I have been talking, and we’ll figure where this is going to go, but none of this will be swept under the rug or hidden. If it’s real, it’s real, and we’ll deal with it.”
Sweeney acknowledged that he’s heard rumors beyond what has appeared in published reports.
“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.”
Sweeney said he has spoken to Murphy since the allegations against Alvarez surfaced, but he declined to expand on the tone of the conversation and would not say whether Alvarez was the topic of that conversation.
“I don’t repeat the subject of my conversations with the governor. I never did. I never repeat my conversations with the governor. I don’t, and I won’t start now,” Sweeney said. “The only way to be able to work with anybody is be able to speak to each other.”
Sweeney could also get information from Alvarez himself.
Alvarez’s official biography says he counseled and represented a number of governmental bodies – including the Senate Majority Office and the Democratic State Committee – when he was an attorney with Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas.
Sweeney said he had not spoken to Alvarez since his resignation and said that Alvarez himself did not work for his caucus.
“He didn’t personally. His law firm did,” Sweeney said when asked to explain Alvarez’s work with Senate Democrats. “His law firm had a retainer with us, so they did different things as attorneys do. He’s been gone for a few years, and we still have the law firm, so it wasn’t Alvarez. It was the law firm, and the law firm assigns attorneys to work with us.”