[Politico] Murphy administration scandals follow New Jersey governor to national stage

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PHILADELPHIA — The New Jersey Democratic State Committee has cut ties with one of Gov. Phil Murphy’s top advisers over allegations he and another of the governor’s key allies created a “toxic” environment as heads of the host committee for this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

The development is a potential embarrassment for Murphy as he begins to build a national profile while dealing with allegations at home over the working conditions in his 2017 gubernatorial campaign and within his administration.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday that Liz Gilbert, president of the host committee, and Adam Alonso, its chief of staff, have been “sidelined” while the committee’s board investigates “concerns about the work environment” that involve staffers‘ allegations of “a toxic culture rife with power struggles, backbiting and mismanagement,” including doling out contracts to friends.

Alonso and his firm, The Cratos Group, were paid more than $100,000 by the New Jersey Democratic State Committee in 2019, federal campaign filings show. Shortly after the Journal Sentinel story was published, the state party abruptly ended that relationship.

“The New Jersey Democratic State Committee is no longer affiliated with Mr. Alonso and his firm,” said Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye, the state committee’s executive director, in a statement.

Gilbert, a former executive director of the state party, no longer works for it.

In December, another Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story noted that New Jersey-based Vision Media, which does extensive work for the Democratic State Committee, built the host committee’s website and email platform.

“Our firm was hired by the Host Committee last June to provide a variety of consulting services, from building out its website and mass email platform to executing graphic design projects to managing its database systems, among other task,” Vision Media Vice President Phil Swibinski said in a statement Tuesday. “We're proud of the work we have done for the Host Committee and look forward to continuing to contribute to its mission.”

According to the Journal Sentinel, the host committee is a civic, nonpartisan arm of the party convention. It is responsible for raising $70 million to stage the four-day event from July 13-16 and recruit some 15,000 volunteers.

The controversy comes as Murphy has worked to fight off allegations by a former top campaign consultant, Julie Roginsky, who claimed his 2017 campaign was “toxic” and “misogynistic.”

Murphy claimed the complaints were investigated and determined to be a struggle between Roginsky and Brendan Gill, the campaign manager. Roginsky countered that the investigation was not fair because “campaign lawyers, one of whom represents Gill in a personal capacity, shut it all down.” Roginsky also accused Alonso of using his access to the governor to drum up business from lobbyists.

Other women have complained of conditions on Murphy campaign, including former volunteer and current administration staffer Katie Brennan, who alleged she was raped by a high-ranking campaign official who nevertheless was hired for a job in the administration.

In addition, Joe Kelley, the Murphy campaign’s finance director, was accused of creating a hostile work environment when he threw a chair in anger in the presence of a female staffer. The campaign investigated the incident and cleared Kelley, who now works in the administration. And an official at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority resigned after alleging she was sidelined for talking to the media about the chair-throwing incident.

The controversies have dogged Murphy in New Jersey for more than a year, but have not made national headlines, in part because the governor maintains a relatively low profile outside the state. That is starting to change, as in December he became chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. The installation of Alonso and Gilbert — two of Murphy’s most trusted aides — as head of the Democratic National Convention’s host committee was also a sign of his growing national profile.

Roginsky on Monday compared the action against Alonso to how other complaints were handled by the Murphy administration.

“Anonymous allegations of workplace toxicity from 2,000 miles away get someone fired. Four women on the record in the governor’s own backyard don’t get that courtesy when they allege workplace toxicity,” Roginsky tweeted. “Why the difference?”

Murphy last month called for a change in Trenton’s culture amid reports of widespread sexism and sexual harassment that have infused New Jersey politics for decades.

A spokesperson for Murphy did not immediately offer comment on Tuesday.

Source Politco

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