Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg called for the creation of a special legislative committee on sexual misconduct that would examine how such complaints are handled by the state and review hiring processes like those that led to Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to hire former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez.
“We need a top-to-bottom examination of the system to identify the flaws and failures that need reform,” Weinberg said. “I am pleased that the Governor has now asked for an investigation, but the Legislature has a responsibility to act and an important independent role to play.”
Weinberg’s call for such hearings follows a press conference held by Gov. Phil Murphy, at which the latter announced an independent investigation by former state Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero into Alvarez’s hiring.
At the presser, Murphy was reluctant to support legislative hearings into the Alvarez hire, citing concerns over people, presumably Republican legislatures that have already called for such an investigation.
“I think these are very meaningful steps that we’re taking right now, so I would hope we don’t get politics,” Murphy said when asked about the possibility of legislative hearings into Alvarez’s hiring. “This is one of these moments where folks could either grandstand or they could call balls and strikes and try to figure out how do we make New Jersey better for victims of sexual assault.”
The move by Weinberg is a departure from how Democrats have thus far handled Alvarez’s resignation following New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan’s claims that Alvarez sexually assaulted her.
Shortly after Murphy’s morning press conference, Democratic Leaders in the Senate, including Senate President Steve Sweeney, Weinberg and Sens. Paul Sarlo, Teresa Ruiz, Sandra Cunningham and Nicholas Scutari bashed Murphy for failed accountability relating to Alvarez’s hire but stopped short of calling for legislative hearings.