Murphy weighs in on Verniero report, Alvarez scandal: ‘the buck stops with me’

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Gov. Phil Murphy (D) took questions from the media this morning to discuss the report done by former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero investigating this administration’s hiring practices in light of Katie Brennan’s rape allegations. 

“Our mission, and the mission of the administration, is to make sure that New Jersey is a better place than we found it – for everyone – but especially for survivors of sexual assault,” Murphy said during a Q & A session after officials cut the ribbon on the 69th Street bridge overpass.

“We must make out criminal justice system, and the State of New Jersey, better places, for survivors to ensure their voices are heard [and] what they seek: justice.”

Several legislators expressed frustration with Verniero’s report, since it did not answer who hired Al Alvarez at the state Schools Development Authority, nor did it explain how he managed to get hired in the midst of the rape allegations levied by Brennan.

In response, Murphy said that his staff cooperated with the investigation 100 percent and have provided 40 hours of testimony throughout seven days of hearing held by a special legislative committee probing Alvarez’s hiring.

The governor indicated that he understands why people are frustrated with the situation, but said all anyone can do is move forward and make sure the recommended actions in the report are enacted.

“I’m frustrated to and I want folks to know that. I understand why they’re frustrated, and again, I am as well. I can’t correct history, I’ve got to pick up the pieces and go forward: the buck stops with me,” he stated.

“So, I can’t correct history. I’m gonna pick up the pieces and go forward. The buck stops with me. My responsibility is to put and implement the recommendations by Justice Verniero … I think they’re all strong and compelling.”

Specifically, Murphy spoke about extending Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) policies that exist in municipal government to apply to a transition team and holding people accountable for their actions prior to being hired as civil service employees.

“My job is to fix it going forward and make sure that is something awful like this happens in the future, we have a far different result,” he explained.

Yesterday, Brennan gave a scathing response to the report, stating that Verniero overlooked the Murphy campaigns “gross misuse of confidentiality” which prevented the situation from ever being addressed properly.

Saying he respected her opinion, Murphy again reiterated the importance of expanding EEOC policies.

“As you’ve heard me say before, the fact that folks weren’t government employees, or that this alleged incident didn’t happen on government ground, that’s a game changer that’s now going to be able to be taken into consideration.”

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