Two former aides to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy have been fired from running the host committee for this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee after allegations they were creating a “toxic work environment.”
“Every employee has a right to feel respected in their workplace. Based on the information we have learned to date, we believe the work environment did not meet the ideals and expectations of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee Board of Directors,” the host committee’s board said in a statement. “Accordingly, Liz Gilbert and Adam Alonso are no longer employed by the organization, effective immediately.”
Gilbert, the president of the host committee, and Alonso, its chief of staff, were both top advisers to Murphy’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign. Alonso worked briefly in the administration as Murphy’s deputy chief of staff. Gilbert is a former executive director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.
In a press release, the host committee board said it first learned of “concerns” about Gilbert and Alonso’s management on Feb. 1 from a letter it received. The committee said in the release that it will continue its investigation and will “take additional steps as needed to ensure the Host Committee’s office culture reflects respect and dignity for each and every employee.”
“Wisconsin resident and convention veteran, Teresa Vilmain, will step in to manage the day-to-day operations during this transition period,” the release said.
In a section of the press release labeled “background information — not for attribution,” the board said that “no concerns of bullying and intimidation within the work environment were shared with the Board prior to this weekend.” It also said that “to date, all fundraising goals have been accomplished” by the host committee, which is charged with raising $70 million and recruiting some 15,000 volunteers for the four-day convention in July.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Monday that staffers said anonymously that Alonso and Gilbert created a hostile work environment that included “power struggles, backbiting and mismanagement.” In a letter later published by the newspaper, female staffers claimed Alonso “bullied and intimidated” staff, primarily women.
In a statement to the Journal-Sentinel, Peg Schaffer, an attorney for Gilbert, blamed “disgruntled staff who, when confronted with a strong woman leader, is using the euphemism of a toxic workplace to complain about their boss.”
Schaffer, a close ally of Murphy and vice chair of the Democratic State Committee, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The New Jersey Democratic State Committee, which paid Alonso more than $100,000 last year, cut ties with him on Monday over the Milwaukee allegations.
The flap is a political embarrassment for Murphy, who has been fighting allegations from a former top campaign consultant that his campaign was a “toxic” environment for women, and whose administration is being sued by staffer Katie Brennan, who claims it did not take seriously her allegation that a campaign staffer, Al Alvarez — who was later hired for a top administration post — sexually assaulted her in 2017.