- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

TRENTON, N.J. — When Gov. James E. McGreevey appointed a young, inexperienced former Israeli sailor named Golan Cipel to head New Jersey’s homeland security effort after September 11, no one could figure out why.

He was a political unknown, a recent immigrant with no security experience, named to a plum $110,000-a-year job without a background check or security clearance.

Mr. Cipel, 35, had one qualification, the Statehouse rumors went: He was the governor’s boyfriend.

Asked by reporters on several occasions whether he was homosexual or had a romantic relationship with Mr. Cipel, Mr. McGreevey never would answer directly, dismissing the suggestion as “ridiculous.”

The speculation intensified after Mr. McGreevey’s historic announcement that he had an affair with another man, identified by two sources close to Mr. McGreevey as Mr. Cipel, and would step down Nov. 15. Mr. McGreevey made the announcement Thursday at a news conference with his wife and parents at his side.

Yesterday, Mr. Cipel’s attorney said Mr. McGreevey made repeated sexual advances toward his client and now has made him the victim of a “smear campaign.”

“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,” Mr. Cipel said in a statement read by attorney Allen M. Lowy during a press conference in New York. Mr. Cipel did not attend the press conference.

Mr. Lowy said his client was offered money by representatives of Mr. McGreevey’s after the governor was informed about the threat of a lawsuit.

“Our only goal is to attain justice,” Mr. 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.

One of the sources, a high-ranking member of the McGreevey administration, has said Mr. Cipel threatened Mr. McGreevey with a sexual harassment lawsuit unless he was paid millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating Mr. McGreevey’s accusation that a former employee tried to blackmail him, according to a federal law enforcement source who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. An attorney for Mr. McGreevey called the FBI to report the extortion attempt, the source said.

The developments occurred as Republican leaders called on Mr. McGreevey to leave office immediately, saying that news of the affair is likely to be first of many damaging disclosures.

“It is my suspicion that there will be more awkward stories in the days and weeks to come — stories that will make it very difficult for him to carry out the duties of his office,” said state Republican Chairman Joe Kyrillos.

“His decision is bigger than Jim McGreevey. It transcends one person, one governor. It’s a much bigger issue. This is something that [affects] everyone in the state of New Jersey,” Mr. Kyrillos said.

Had Mr. McGreevey stepped down immediately, a special election would be held to choose someone to serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2006. Mr. McGreevey’s decision to leave office in November allows Senate President Richard J. Codey, a Democrat, to finish the term.

Democrats said Republican leaders were trying to capitalize on what was Mr. McGreevey’s personal decision.

“This is the time for the people’s business, not for partisan politics,” Mr. Codey said.

Republican lawyers said they were considering legal options that would force Mr. McGreevey to resign earlier, but added that pursuing impeachment was not one of them.

Mr. McGreevey’s resignation brings an end to a political career that has been marked by a series of scandals and missteps, including the Cipel appointment.

Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. McGreevey’s top campaign donor, Charles Kushner, was charged with conspiracy, obstructing a federal investigation and promoting prostitution.

Mr. McGreevey was introduced to Mr. Cipel at a reception during a trip to Israel in 2000 when he was running for governor. The married American politician and the young Israeli poet were introduced at a wine-and-cheese reception and hit it off immediately.

Soon, Mr. McGreevey paved the way for Mr. Cipel to come to the United States. Six months later, Mr. Cipel was working on Mr. McGreevey’s campaign, having obtained a visa in which he listed Mr. McGreevey and Mr. Kushner as sponsors on his visa application and then taking up residence in an apartment less than a mile from Mr. McGreevey.

Working first in a $30,000-a-year public relations job arranged by Mr. Kushner, Mr. Cipel was named to head the state Office of Homeland Security in February 2002.

Mr. McGreevey said he did not think a background check was necessary for Mr. Cipel, who also had worked as a public relations officer in the Israeli Consulate in New York and achieved the rank of lieutenant in the Israeli Navy.

“Golan is smart, incisive, hardworking and trustworthy, and he has brought a unique point of view to the work he does,” Mr. McGreevey said at the time.

But nagging questions about his qualifications and the reason for his appointment trailed Mr. Cipel, who was told by Mr. McGreevey not to grant press interviews in the meantime.

The heat was turned up after the Star-Ledger of Newark reported that the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI had refused to share information with Mr. Cipel because he was a foreigner with no security clearance.

Buckling to pressure, Mr. McGreevey reassigned him as a “special counsel” in the governor’s office. Mr. Cipel left state government five months later and landed a public relations job with Mr. McGreevey’s help before fading from public view.

Until Thursday.

Mr. McGreevey never mentioned Mr. Cipel during the dramatic, nationally televised press conference Thursday. But he said keeping the affair and his sexual orientation secret will leave the governor’s office “vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure.”

Meir Nitzan, a mayor in Israel who introduced Mr. Cipel and Mr. McGreevey, said he did not know whether Mr. Cipel was a homosexual, instead describing him as a “straight-laced” man who was, by all appearances, heterosexual.

“He is not married. He presented at least two women as his girlfriend. … What surprises me is the blackmail allegation,” Mr. Nitzan said.

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