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Man Accuses N.J. Governor of Harassment, 'Smear Campaign'

Republicans want the Democrat, who plans to resign in November, to step down immediately.

August 14, 2004|Elizabeth Shogren and John J. Goldman | Times Staff Writers

TRENTON, N.J. — The lawyer for the man with whom Gov. James E. McGreevey has admitting having an adulterous affair accused the governor Friday of waging a smear campaign against his client.

At the same time, Republican leaders in New Jersey assailed McGreevey for announcing that he would resign in November, demanding instead that he step down immediately.

In a statement read Friday by his lawyer at a New York news conference, Golan Cipel said: "While employed by one of the most powerful politicians in the country, New Jersey Gov. McGreevey, I was the victim of repeated sexual advances by him."

Attorney Allen Lowy said "only time will tell" whether Cipel will file a sexual harassment lawsuit against McGreevey.

In McGreevey's announcement Thursday -- in which he said he was gay and had engaged in "an adult consensual affair with another man" -- he did not mention Cipel, 35, by name.

Cipel served as New Jersey's director of domestic security in 2002, but resigned within weeks after questions were raised about his qualifications -- including his lack of U.S. security clearance. He remained on the state payroll for months in an advisory position.

The governor created the $110,000-per-year post for Cipel, an Israeli citizen McGreevey met at a wine-and-cheese party while on a trip to Israel in 2000.

Cipel, an officer in the Israeli navy, moved to New Jersey soon after they met, and McGreevey put him to work on his gubernatorial campaign. A McGreevey political donor, Charles Kushner, was listed as Cipel's sponsor on his visa application.

McGreevey helped Cipel move into a townhouse one-tenth of a mile from the home he shared with his wife, Dina, in suburban Woodbridge.

The governor helped Cipel find a succession of jobs, some subsidized by Kushner, before appointing him to the domestic security job. Kushner was recently indicted on corruption charges in a separate matter.

"Golan is smart, incisive, hardworking and trustworthy, and he has brought a unique point of view to the work he does," McGreevey said when Cipel was appointed to the domestic security job.

For several years, the relationship between McGreevey and Cipel was an open secret in New Jersey, according to political insiders. There was "certainly a lot of buzz" about it, said Joe Cryan, a Democratic assemblyman and vice chairman of the state Democratic Party.

But aides said McGreevey had denied any romantic connection when asked about Cipel in the past. Although aides for McGreevey said that Cipel had threatened to sue for alleged sexual harassment, no lawsuit was filed Friday, according to courts in two New Jersey counties.

Aides to the governor said that Cipel had demanded millions of dollars from McGreevey to avert a lawsuit.

Cipel's lawyer on Friday contradicted those reports.

"It was Mr. McGreevey's representatives who, without provocation, offered a sum of money to make my client go away," Lowy said.

His client was not present as Lowy conducted a news conference in drenching rain on the front steps of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.

In the statement Lowy read, Cipel said he was responding "with a sense of relief" to "statements and inferences" made about him by members of McGreevey's administration.

After referring to himself as a victim, Cipel said the governor's behavior caused him "emotional distress and turmoil."

"I often wonder why I did not have the strength to disentangle myself from such an oppressive environment and from such a manipulative person," he said.

He said that when he "finally dared to reject Gov. McGreevey's advances, the retaliatory action taken by him and members of his administration was nothing short of abuse and intimidation."

Cipel's statement said he felt vindicated by the governor's resignation.

Lowy said McGreevey and his representatives had waged "a smear campaign" against Cipel.

Asked about Lowy's charge that McGreevey's representatives had offered money to make Cipel "go away," Joel Benenson, a longtime advisor to the governor, said, "The statement for a request for payment in order to go away is completely and utterly false."

Benenson said that McGreevey's lawyers referred the matter to federal authorities for investigation.

Benenson said in a phone interview that Cipel's allegations that he was the victim of repeated sexual advances by McGreevey were "completely and totally false from a person who is trying to exploit his relationship with the governor."

McGreevey spent Friday with his family, according to spokeswoman Juliet Johnson. The governor is married to Dina Matos McGreevey, 37; their daughter is 3. McGreevey also has a 12-year-old daughter by his previous marriage to Kari Schutz, a Canadian school librarian.

Republican leaders in New Jersey called on the governor to leave office immediately.

"Let New Jersey move on," said state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee.

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