Rape claim against governor campaign worker settles for $1M

National
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A lawsuit brought by a state employee alleging that a fellow worker on the campaign of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy raped her has been settled for $1 million, her lawyers said Friday, wrapping up a case that reinforced perceptions of misogyny in state politics and led to a legislative investigation.

The state and Murphy campaign will pay $400,000 to Katie Brennan’s attorneys and $600,000 to a charity of her choice, The Waterfront Project, a nonprofit that offers legal aid to poor people, older adults, veterans and people with disabilities in northern New Jersey’s Hudson County.

“All survivors deserve the excellent support I had,” Brennan said in a news release. “I hope to create that support for others so that a lack of legal representation is never a barrier to justice.”

Neither side admitted wrongdoing.

Brennan’s lawsuit named the state of New Jersey, the Murphy campaign and Albert Alvarez, the man she says sexually assaulted her in April 2017.

Brennan’s lawyers said in their news release that Alvarez has agreed to meet confidentially with Brennan and to attend a class about sexual harassment.

Alvarez did not immediately offer any comment Friday. Murphy called the settlement “fair and reasonable.”

“We’ve worked collaboratively and constructively with Katie and her team to institute meaningful reforms to support survivors in the workplace,” he said during an unrelated news briefing. “We look forward to continuing our work on these issues to make New Jersey a leading state for survivor-centric policies, as we have been dong now for a long time.”

Brenann, now chief of staff at the state’s housing and mortgage finance agency, says she went to authorities after the assault, told others who got jobs in Murphy’s administration and was assured Alvarez would leave state government. But he served as chief of staff at the Schools Development Authority until October 2018, when Brennan went public.

Alvarez denied wrongdoing and wasn’t criminally charged, but the allegations sparked monthslong investigations by Murphy’s team and lawmakers.

The legislative probe concluded Murphy’s administration appeared more concerned with “avoiding negative publicity” than following procedures and should have investigated Brennan’s allegations more thoroughly.

Attorneys for Murphy’s campaign agreed to release anyone who had signed a nondisclosure agreement and allow them to discuss the campaign’s hiring policies and work environment.

Murphy promised to reevaluate workplace standards and guidelines for state employees.

The Associated Press does not disclose, without their consent, the names of people alleging sexual assault, but Brennan has come forward publicly.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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