The Select Committee on Oversight investigation into the hiring of Al Alvarez is entering its final stages, committee co-chair Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg suggested in a letter Wednesday.
“The Committee is now entering the phase where we will hear from experts on the challenges facing survivors, as well as from experts on State employment law, to assist us in developing policies and procedures that ensure that survivors are taken seriously, that credible allegations are thoroughly investigated, that offenders are held accountable, that clear and accessible complaint procedures are in place, and that steps are taken to prevent abuses,” Weinberg said in the letter. “These are our shared objectives.”
The Senator’s letter was sent to 67 women who supported the committee’s hearings on the condition that they lead to meaningful policy changes for sexual assault victims and not be politicized. Weinberg is seeking the women’s aid in lobbying the governor to quickly sign a bill barring the enforcement of non-disclosure agreements in the case of sexual harassment and assault.
“Limiting these so-called confidentiality agreements will help eliminate the secrecy that too often allows abuses to continue,” Weinberg said in the letter. “It should no longer be appropriate to buy forced silence that further victimizes assault survivors. This bill will not force survivors to remain silent, but will give them a choice.”
State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan has accused Alvarez of sexually assaulting her in April 2017, when he was in charge of Muslim and Latino outreach for Murphy’s campaign, for which Brennan would later volunteer.
Weinberg’s letter suggests that the committee will not call any more witnesses from Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, transition or campaign teams.
It is consistent with the end-of-February sunset Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin and others sought for the select committee.
Pintor Marin is chair of the budget assembly committee and co-chair of the select committee. With March fast approaching, Pintor Marin’s schedule threatens to become overwhelming if the select committee continues to hold hearings.
The committee will hold its next hearing at 10 a.m. on Feb. 26, but there’s a little more than one week remaining before the start of March. Murphy’s budget address likely won’t come until the second week of March, but the clock’s still ticking, and it appears the select committee has taken notice.
At the very least, the panel will be calling expert witnesses from this point forward.