Variation in testimony from NJ officials in Alvarez case irks lawmakers

New Jersey statehouse
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — What happened that allowed a former top official in N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy's administration to get his high-paying job, even after he'd been accused of rape? Hours of testimony on Tuesday appeared to bring the Legislative Select Oversight committee investigating the matter no closer to an answer. 

Who hired Al Alvarez at the state Schools Development Authority? That was the question repeatedly put to the ex-chief of staff by committee lawyer Michael Critchley.

"I can't tell you I know who specifically said 'You're hired,'" Alvarez replied. "I can tell you honestly that I know that I expressed my interest there and that no one objected to me going there."

READ: Panel grills Murphy administration, campaign staff over rape allegations

Alvarez got the $140,000/year gig after serving on Phil Murphy's campaign  and after Katie Brennan told the governor-elect's transition team that Alvarez raped her in April 2017.

"The accusation, if it were to become public, would just make it too damaging for the governor," Alvarez testified, recounting a conversation with Murphy's chief counsel Matt Platkin. "I then offered him that I would be willing to resign if in fact they would help me secure employment."

Alvarez testified the lawyer agreed to that condition, contradicting Platkin's earlier testimony to the committee.

"If there had been a paper trail  a memorialization of the process  then we would be able to answer that question," said Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) in a news conference after the hearing. "We don't have that paper trail at all. There's no documentation whatsoever."

"Some place between the triumvirate of [Jose] Lozano, Platkin, and [Peter] Cammarano, he obviously got the job of his choice," said committee co-chairwoman and State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), referring to the head of Murphy's transition team, the governor's top lawyer, and Murphy's former chief of staff.

"There were a lot of inconsistencies today, and there have been in the past," Weinberg said. "So I think that’s going to take a much more in-depth review with our attorneys."

Alvarez collected a $30,000 raise and didn't quit until an Oct. 2018 Wall Street Journal story about the accusations, which he denies and for which he is not charged.

"The sexual contact between myself and Ms. Brennan was consensual," he said in his opening statement. But Alvarez noted he "respects the goal" of the committee to make policy recommendations on hiring public employees and handling sexual assault claims.