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Aide’s inexperience piqued rumor in N.J.
Question of the Day
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.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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