State employee files notice of intent to sue over sex claims

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A state government employee who says her allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a campaign staffer to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy were ignored or downplayed has filed a notice of intent to sue New Jersey for damages.

An attorney for Katie Brennan filed the notice of tort claim last week.

The notice alleges the state, including Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, acted negligently and with reckless indifference when it hired Albert Alvarez.

Brennan says Alvarez sexually assaulted her in 2017 during Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign and that she told several officials in Murphy’s administration.

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Alvarez has denied the allegations.

It’s the latest development in a case that has seized Murphy’s administration in its first year and led to a legislative inquiry — spearheaded by the governor’s fellow Democrats — into how his office handled Brennan’s allegations.

Murphy’s office declined to comment.

The attorney general confirmed receipt of Brennan’s claim.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people alleging sexual assault without their consent. Brennan came forward publicly in October.

Alvarez, who served as the top aide at the Schools Development Authority, resigned in October after being contacted by a reporter for the Wall Street Journal for a story about Brennan’s claims. The newspaper reported the filing of the tort claim notice Thursday.

Brennan now works as the chief of staff at the state’s housing and mortgage authority. She testified before lawmakers that despite her coming forward to police, prosecutors, and the governor’s transition team, Alvarez was still hired.

Last month, it was revealed that Murphy’s chief of staff and chief counsel each directed Alvarez to seek other employment, once in March 2018 and then again in June. But they stopped short of firing him.

Chief of staff Pete Cammarano told lawmakers he thought it was clear that he intended Alvarez to leave, though he stayed on until the newspaper story was about to be published in October.

After Brennan’s claims became public, Murphy said he wished Alvarez wasn’t hired but he defended how his transition team and administration acted.

He also appointed former state Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero to investigate the matter and asked the state’s Division of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action to review administration policies.

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