TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. James E. McGreevey made repeated sexual advances toward his former homeland security adviser and has now made him the victim of a “smear campaign,” a lawyer for the man said Friday.
“While employed by one of the most powerful politicians in the country, New Jersey Governor McGreevey, I was the victim of repeated sexual advances by him,” Golan Cipel said in a statement read by attorney Allen M. Lowy during a news conference in New York.
Cipel did not attend the news conference.
The governor named Cipel as New Jersey’s $110,000-a-year director of homeland security in 2002. Cipel was transferred to a different position later that year after a storm of opposition from lawmakers who questioned his qualifications.
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Cipel’s name emerged Thursday as McGreevey announced his own homosexuality, extramarital affair and intent to resign.
Lowy on Friday said his client was offered money by representatives of McGreevey after the governor was informed of a possible lawsuit.Video:
"It was Mr. McGreevey's representatives who, without provocation, offered a sum of money to make my client go away," Lowy said.
“Our only goal is to attain justice,” Lowy said. “Money was never the ultimate goal in my client’s search for justice.”
He said "only time will tell" whether a lawsuit is filed. No lawsuit was filed, according to court officials in Mercer and Middlesex county. Lowy did not mention his client's sexuality.
McGreevey did not immediately respond to Cipel's allegations. Calls to his Statehouse office were not returned.
In his first public comments about McGreevey, Cipel said in the statement that abuse and intimidation by McGreevey representatives cowed him into keeping quiet until now.
"When I finally dared to reject Gov. McGreevey's advances, the retaliatory actions taken by him and members of his administration were nothing short of abuse and intimidation," Cipel said.
Seeking immediate resignation
The developments occurred as Republican leaders called on McGreevey to step aside immediately, one day after the governor revealed he is gay, had an extramarital affair and will resign in November.
Joe Kyrillos, chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, called on McGreevey to “do the right thing” and step down right away. McGreevey on Thursday said he will resign Nov. 15.
McGreevey said the circumstances around his affair with a man and its effects on his family threatened to undermine his “ability to govern.”
Kyrillos said rumors about the affair, as well his “suspicion that there will be more awkward stories in the days and weeks to come” prompted his call for McGreevey to quit immediately.
Had McGreevey stepped down immediately, a special election would have beeen held to fill the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2006. The decision to leave office in November allows Democratic Senate President Richard J. Codey to finish the term.
Democrats said GOP leaders were unfairly trying to capitalize on what was McGreevey's personal decision. "This is the time for the people's business, not for partisan politics," Codey said.
A day earlier, McGreevey made his shocking revelation with his second wife at his side.
‘I am a gay American’
“My truth is that I am a gay American,” McGreevey said. He described decades of sexual confusion that dogged him through two marriages and ultimately led him to an act he called “wrong, foolish and inexcusable.”
“Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign,” he said, without elaborating on what the circumstances were.
McGreevey, 47, refused to answer questions. He said “it makes little difference that as governor I am gay,” but added that staying in office and keeping the affair and his sexual orientation secret will leave the governor’s office “vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure.”
McGreevey said his resignation would be effective Nov. 15 — 11 days after the coming general election.
One source, a senior McGreevey political adviser, said Cipel, an Israeli McGreevey met on a trip to Israel, threatened McGreevey several weeks ago that unless he was paid “millions of dollars,” Cipel would file a lawsuit charging the governor with sexual harassment. No lawsuit was filed by Friday, however.
Cipel could not be reached for comment. An FBI spokesman did not confirm reports that McGreevey’s office called the bureau Thursday to complain about Cipel asking for money.
Cipel was named to the newly created post of homeland security adviser without any background check or official announcement.
Two government jobs for Cipel
“I know Golan and have worked with him closely,” McGreevey told The Record of Bergen County at the time. “He’s a super-bright and super-competent individual who brings a great wealth of knowledge on security.”
Amid questions about what Cipel did to earn his $110,000 salary, he was reassigned in March 2002 to a “special counsel” job. A few months later, Cipel left his government position.
Across New Jersey, people listened to their radios or gathered around TV sets to listen to McGreevey’s live news conference, and many were left in shock.
“It’s a shame,” said Jim Nerney, 48, of Middletown. “He brought a lot of passion to the governor’s office, but the fact is that it’s not accepted in today’s society and he’s paying the consequences.”
“His sexual orientation doesn’t matter to me. I feel he’s done a good job, holding the line on taxes,” said Donald Bowman, 52, of Kearny, a school district worker in Newark.
Senate President Richard J. Codey, a Democrat, will become acting governor and serve out the remainder of McGreevey’s term, which ends in early 2006. If McGreevey were to leave office before Sept. 3, a special election would be held.
Former Republican Gov. Christie Whitman said McGreevey “made a courageous decision” but criticized his plan to wait until Nov. 15 to leave office, saying it “smacks of politics.” She said it “would be in the best interests of the state” for the governor to step aside immediately.
Gay rights groups expressed support and compassion for McGreevey, but their reactions were tinged with sorrow because McGreevey announced his resignation just as he became the nation’s first openly gay governor.
“It is kind of stunning, sad to me that in 2004 people are still having to struggle because of homophobia in society to come to terms with who they are,” said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal.
McGreevey had a daughter with his first wife, Kari, who lives in British Columbia with the child. He has another daughter with his current wife, Dina. McGreevey spokesman Micah Rasmussen declined to answer any questions about the future of McGreevey’s marriage.
On Friday, George Zoffinger, a McGreevey friend and state official, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” he had dinner with the governor after his announcement.
“I think he has a real sense of relief in that he has gotten this off his shoulders,” said Zoffinger, chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
Scandals have dogged McGreevey
McGreevey rose from mayor of suburban Woodbridge to state chief executive by his tenacious pursuit of party politics, winning the Statehouse in November 2001 by beating Republican Bret Schundler by 15 percentage points.
Scandal marred McGreevey’s tenure following questions over a series of questionable appointments, including Cipel’s.
McGreevey also came under fire in 2002 for hiring a state police superintendent who had a criminal record. Last year, two former aides were targeted in a federal probe investigating whether they used their political ties to secure business for their billboard company.
This year, a Democratic fund-raiser and former high school classmate of McGreevey’s was charged with trying to extort campaign donations from a farmer in exchange for help in selling his land.
Last month, the governor’s commerce secretary quit amid reports he funneled money to businesses he owned with family members, and McGreevey’s top campaign donor was charged with conspiracy, obstructing a federal investigation and promoting prostitution.
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