Between the lines

Katie Brennan allegations raise bigger questions

Katie Brennan’s allegation that a member of Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign team allegedly raped her in April 2017 has raised serious questions that clearly need to be answered.

Brennan accused Albert J. Alvarez of allegedly raping her after a Murphy campaign event. She reported the alleged attack to the Jersey City police, who passed it on to the sex crimes unit of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s office.

Alvarez, through an attorney, has denied the accusations.

Hudson County Prosecutors Esther Suarez recused herself from the case when she learned that she knew both people involved.

Although heavily laden with political implications, since this scandal could have negatively impacted Murphy’s election chances, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office chose not to prosecute.

Although Brennan testified before a legislative committee looking into the matter that she contacted Murphy asking to talk to him about “a sensitive matter,” she said she did not give the candidate details.

Murphy passed the email on to a staffer, and claims he was not aware of the details until October 2018 when the Wall Street Journal published an account of Brennan’s accusations.

The state attorney general’s office cleared the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office of any misdeeds, but also brought on the Middlesex Prosecutor’s Office to reinvestigate the case.

Alvarez, after Murphy’s successful election, was hired as part of the administration. According to two published reports, he apparently oversaw a review of Brennan’s hiring to a post in the same administration.

Two top state officials, apparently on recommendations from legal staff, apparently asked Alvarez to resign his post well before Brennan’s allegations came out in the press, according to testimony before the committee in December.

Alvarez stepped down only after being contacted by the Wall Street Journal in October.

The case raises serious questions about who knew about the allegations during the election process and whether or not the case was suppressed in order to keep it from becoming a campaign issue.

And why was Gov. Murphy kept in the dark about the case even after he was elected when clearly some of his top officials knew about it and tried to get Alvarez to resign?

Like other potential scandals such as Watergate and later Bridgegate, any efforts to protect the governor may actually work against him if the public perceives this as a potential cover-up.

Brennan did everything that a rape victim is supposed to do, reported the situation to all the right people, and then waited for justice. But her case happened at an inconvenient time and so she appears to have become a victim of political expediency. This also denies Alvarez his day in court, leaving a cloud of doubt over his head.

Death of a political hero

The death of Neil Carroll, who served as freeholder and chief of staff for freeholders, congressmen and a governor, ends an era in politics we may never see again.

Carroll died at age 91, following the death of his best friends, former Rep. Cornelius Gallagher, and County Department of Public Works chief Harold Demellier.

Carroll was one of the great political actors on a tough political stage, but he also hated corruption, and as chief of staff for then Freeholder Chairman Sal Vega, worked behind the scenes to clean up county government after the indictment and later conviction of Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski.

On March 24, 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Janiszewski to 41 months in prison, the maximum sentence allowed under his plea agreement, despite his cooperation with investigators.

At that hearing, Pisano held up a copy of the Hudson Reporter – in which we had reported Janiszewki’s diversion of campaign funds to a private campaign account while he was under the supervision of the FBI.

While the Hudson Reporter won prizes for that coverage, people such as  Carroll and long-time Janiszewski foe attorney John Frohling had been pointing out the way.

During the heat of the investigation in 2002, Carroll actually met in the underground garage at the Pavonia Avenue county building to steer us in the right direction for the investigation. He claimed corruption like that gave politics a bad name.

This stance for integrity is part of the reason why so many politicians spoke out to honor him before and after his passing. But he was also a powerful mentor.

“Neil Carroll’s influence on a generation of elected and government officials is impossible to measure,” said state Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti. “He was always generous with his time, patience and knowledge. Among the many lessons I learned from Neil is that politics should not be personal and that when you make a commitment you stick to it — no matter what.”

Even former political opponents had praise for Carroll, such as Rep. Albio Sires.

“He served his country with distinction in the Navy during both WWII and Korea and he applied the same dedication during his service in government,” Sires said. “Through Neil’s years of service, his first true love was his hometown of Bayonne, where he served as freeholder.”

Robert Knapp, a county official, recalled trips to Saratoga with him and other officials.

“Although I was the junior guy with this group, we would laugh and go over the many stories involved with the political scene in the city and county,” Knapp said. “Neil Carroll was a dedicated public servant who commanded honesty and integrity throughout all of his relationships, whether you were with him on a political campaign or not, the same shining respect for all from Neil would be paramount to all he encountered.”

To comment on this story on-line, go to our website, www.hudsonreporter.com. Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.