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Report: Murphy Administration 'Seriously Mishandled' Staffer's Sexual Assault Allegation

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A legislative panel in New Jersey released a scathing report Wednesday saying Gov. Phil Murphy's administration "seriously mishandled" a staffer's sexual assault allegation.

The New Jersey Legislative Select Oversight Committee looked into the administration's hiring practices and its handling of the claims brought forward by Katie Brennan, a top aide to Murphy.

As CBS2's Meg Baker reported, the report found the governor's inner circle mishandled the situation and even misled lawmakers about it.

"It is not the system that failed Katie Brennan. It is the people who made up that system, and that includes law enforcement, as well as all the people named in this report," New Jersey Sen. Loretta Weinberg said Wednesday. "What I would like to see happen is... when somebody makes an allegation of rape, it is taken seriously, and it is investigated properly."

Web Extra: Read The Committee's Full Report

Brennan testified in December that Al Alvarez, then a campaign staffer, raped her in 2017 and that she followed protocol and reported the alleged assault to her superiors, people who work closely with Murphy, but went unheard.

Despite Brennan's report, Alvarez was hired in 2018 at $140,000 a year. The committee still does not know who on Murphy's team hired Alvarez. No-one admitted to it and there is no paper trail.

"In terms of hiring decisions, you frequently don't have a ton of information when someone starts employment, but when there are complaints, you have to act much quicker than that," said legal expert Richard Panitch.

The report concluded the administration should have investigated Brennan's claims before hiring Alvarez. It also found her rape claim was not taken seriously enough by the administration and Murphy's aides made a mistake in not telling the governor about the incident.

"There are policies and procedures in place, and those policies and procedures weren't enforced or followed. So the system did not fail Katie Brennan. The people in the administration and the transition team failed Mrs. Brennan, and that should never happen again," said St. Sen. Kristin Corrado.

"I think that when you have a team around you, especially someone like the governor, I think it's up to him," said Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin. "That's his decision to make as to whether he feels fit – that some of the people that are around him could really do more help or harm."

Alvarez maintains his innocence. Two prosecutors did not bring charges against him, citing a lack of evidence.

"I have been falsely accused," Alvarez said back in March. "The sexual contact between myself and Ms. Brennan was consensual."

The committee's attorney said the panel simply reported the facts and any filing of criminal charges in the case is up to state prosecutors.

The report also laid out the framework for legislation to make sure situations like this are handled properly in the future.

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