Home>Feature>Report: ex-Murphy aide ‘bullied and intimidated’ women staffers at convention host committee

Adam Alonso. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.

Report: ex-Murphy aide ‘bullied and intimidated’ women staffers at convention host committee

Alonso on administrative leave during internal probe

By David Wildstein, February 04 2020 1:04 pm

A former top aide to Gov. Phil Murphy is being accused of bullying and intimidating women by unidentified employees at the Milwaukee host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, according to a letter obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Adam Alonso has consistently bullied and intimidated staff members, but of note is that this is primarily directed at the women on staff. Resulting in a culture that coddles male senior advisors and consultants who have no clear role or clear lines of management,” the unsigned letter said.

The host committee announced on Monday that Alonso had been placed on administrative leave while a law firm hired by the host committee investigates the claims.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the CEO of the host committee who served as executive director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee under Murphy, will stay away from Milwaukee 2020 office and will have no “direct contact with staff,” the Journal Sentinel reported.

“His mismanagement of the Host Committee, enabled by Liz Gilbert, has created a toxic and unstable working environment that we will not allow to continue,” the letter said.  “The office culture is toxic and insular to Adam and Liz, which discourages honest feedback and discourse.”

The allegations against Alonzo and Gilbert follows a bombshell Star-Ledger story where Murphy’s former consultant charges 2017 campaign with ‘rank misogyny” and retaliation.

Julie Roginsky, the architect of Murphy’s early campaign strategy to capture the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, says that the campaign manager she brought in, Brendan Gill, used the C-word during an argument with her.

She says she informed Murphy and that she was ultimately fired from the campaign.  Gill vehemently denies the use of the C-word.

The Milwaukee story turns the allegations of toxic workplace issues on the Murphy campaign into a new story that extends beyond the narrow borders of the New Jersey media market and gives enhanced credibility to statements made by Roginsky, who has already become a national figure in a fight to ban non-disclosure agreements that prevent women from speaking out.

This has significantly impacted staff morale resulting in a fear of retribution and lack of trust among not only senior but junior staff as well,” the letter from the women staffers at Milwaukee 2020 said  “Since November, complaints of this nature were brought to the attention of Liz Gilbert, who has gone on to defend him. Our challenges have been entirely dismissed.”

According to the letter, one of the women “has decided to leave the organization and several junior women have approached us distraught and fearful, not knowing where else to turn.”

The issue of how women were treated on the campaign – and now similar issues by ex-Murphy aides in Milwaukee — pushes the governor further against the #MeToo movement and threatens to undermine his credibility as a national progressive leader.

Murphy’s handling of complaints by women on his campaign became an issue in 2018 when one of his volunteers, Katie Brennan, alleged that she was raped by a senior campaign official, Al Alvarez.   Brennan told top Murphy advisors, but Alvarez was still hired for a top administration post and remained on the job until a Wall Street Journal story was about to break.

The Journal Sentinel story also revealed that some staffers complained that Alonso and Gilbert directed contracts to certain still-unidentified New Jersey consultants.

There is no timeline for the internal Milwaukee investigation.

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