By Matt Rooney
He’s (finally) confronting the committee, Save Jerseyans, and if you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to hear Al Alvarez testify next week and explain how he hired himself.
What you may not know: our friends at NJ 101.5 learned that Committee co-chair Senator Loretta Weinberg is restricting questioning to the Murphy Administration’s hiring practices. So we MIGHT hear about corruption and nepotism at the SDA, but we won’t hear anything about Katie Brennan.
Bizarre? Yeah. I’d say so.
Consider this related strange aspect of the legislature’s Murphy Administration hiring probe: why haven’t they subpoenaed Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez?
This could be the first and last time you ever see me in agreement with Star-Ledger editorial board chieftain and arch-liberal Tom Moran who recently described Weinberg and the committee’s decision to avoid compelling Suarez’s testimony as a “shameful punt.” I agree.
What did she know? When did she know it? What can the documents tell us? Weinberg and others were previously on record as being skeptical of the Hudson County prosecutor’s handling and public position pertaining to an “investigation” of Katie Brennan’s rape allegation lodged at Alvarez, a former senior Murphy official, and everyone fully expected Suarez to get her turn on the hot seat based largely on Weinberg’s vocal curiosity. Remember: Suarez’s office decided NOT to charge Alvarez. More on that in a minute.
Oh, and another thing: Suarez and Alvarez were also LONG-TIME acquaintances.
Worth a hard look? Damn right. But suddenly interest appears to be waning in Democrat legislative circles.
One can’t help but wonder if the Senate Democrats — who’ve been hostile to Phil Murphy up until Tuesday’s budget speech — are suddenly less-than-interested in continuing the intra-party civil war. It was a love-fest after Murphy’s address! Compliments flowing freely. And they might even be pivoting away from the REAL dirt and focusing on something less controversial like the SDA’s reputation as a patronage pit in the interest of keeping peace… for now.
Moran explained how Suarez and Alvarez intersect in his March 3rd editorial:
Suarez says they were not close friends, only political acquaintances. And she says she had no idea her people were investigating this case under her nose. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal exonerated her in November and asked the Legislature to drop its investigation of her.
But NJ Advance Media later obtained internal emails sent from investigators in Hudson County to Suarez at the start of this investigation, all naming Alvarez as the accused, and one noting that he was a senior official in Murphy’s 2017 campaign at the time alleged rape.
Grewal’s office said that Suarez didn’t read “the substance” of the emails. It’s not clear what that means. Did she open them? What part did she read? Is it even remotely plausible that none of the 25 other people on those emails stepped into her office to discuss such a politically charged case? And why didn’t Grewal, in his letter to legislators exonerating Suarez, reveal the existence of these emails or even discuss whether Suarez knew her people were handling the case?
After Suarez’s relationship with Alvarez was revealed, Grewal asked prosecutors in Middlesex County to investigate, and they chose not to file charges as well. But Middlesex prosecutors didn’t conduct an independent investigation from scratch. They relied on several key interviews done in Hudson County instead. So, if Hudson’s investigation was tainted, then so was Middlesex’s.
Hold up! Another angle comin’ at ya: Suarez is married Keith Furlong. Furlong is the ultimate Democrat insider.
He’s a top lieutenant for Democrat State Chair John Currie, a Murphy ally in the current statewide party split.
He’s got friends and clients all over the place; he’s also very close with fellow insider Brendan Gill, the so-called “inside man” for Governor Murphy.
We’re shining a light on a spider web of N.J. Democrat connectivity. Did Suarez and Furlong ever discuss ANY of this over dinner one night or while brushing their teeth in the morning? Concerning a major percolating Murphy Administration scandal which carried dire consequences for the Governor and his inner circle?
We may never know… thanks to Weinberg and her fellow Democrat committee members.
Again, I have a sneaking suspicion that a suspension (perhaps temporary) of hostilities between Phil Murphy and legislative Democrats is upon us. One would hope the interest of justice wouldn’t be impacted by the shifting sands of power politics but we’ve seen worse in New Jersey before. I’m less than optimistic that I’ll be proven wrong in this case.
Sleepy Loretta has some explaining to do.
To the people of New Jersey including Katie Brennan.