If New Jersey governor James E. McGreevey simply apologizes, the former aide who claims he was sexually harassed by the governor would consider dropping any plans to file a lawsuit, the man's attorney said Thursday.
Golan Cipel, McGreevey's former homeland security adviser, is still considering legal action against the governor but would possibly settle for an apology, according to his attorney, Allen Lowy. "I think if the governor were to stand up and very clearly own up and apologize for what he did to Golan, this whole thing would go away very quickly," Lowy said. "It's not about money. It's never been about money. An apology would go a long way to making Golan feel better."
McGreevey announced his resignation two weeks ago and said he was stepping down because he had had an extramarital affair with a man. Two McGreevey administration sources said the man McGreevey was referring to was Cipel. The former adviser responded to the claims by saying he is not gay and denying any consensual relationship with McGreevey. Cipel claims he was sexually harassed by the governor from the time he went to work for him in 2001.
Micah Rasmussen, a McGreevey spokesman, said the governor would not apologize to Cipel because no sexual harassment took place. "The governor has nothing to apologize for," Rasmussen said.
When McGreevey's attorneys were notified by Lowy in July that Cipel intended to file a sexual harassment lawsuit, it started a chain of events that resulted in the governor's announcement that he would resign his office effective November 15.
Lowy said he held negotiations with McGreevey's attorneys prior to the resignation announcement, which might have prevented the filing of a lawsuit, but that no agreement was reached. The U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating allegations by McGreevey's lawyer that Cipel tried to extort money from the governor. Lowy said that no additional negotiations have taken place since McGreevey's announcement, made during a specially called press conference on August 12. Some legal experts have said that Cipel may be running out of time to file a lawsuit against McGreevey. Cipel worked for the state until August 30, 2002, and there is a two-year statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment lawsuit.
But Lowy said he is not worried about an August 30 deadline. "That date does not concern me," Lowy said. "We have many options."
The attorney would not expand on what those options might be but said the state could be named as a defendant in a lawsuit.
There is a history of the state settling sexual harassment claims against elected officials. In 1997 the state paid $347,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against then-assembly speaker Garabed "Chuck" Haytaian by a woman in the assembly Republican office. The state also paid legal costs for a sexual harassment case against a former deputy director of the Criminal Justice Division.
Lowy said there remained a possibility that no lawsuit would be filed against McGreevey. "It's about Golan feeling the governor admitted what he did," Lowy said. "Golan may decide the governor's resigning did just that. But I don't think there's anyone who believes he resigned because he's gay or had an affair. He resigned because he was afraid the truth would come out about his abuse of Golan."
Rasmussen said McGreevey stands by the statements he made during his resignation speech. The spokesman also criticized Lowy. "The fact that Mr. Lowy continues to talk to the media calls his entire credibility into question," Rasmussen said. "It shows this is not a legal matter."
Cipel remains in Israel with his family and has no timetable for returning to the United States, according to Lowy. Cipel has not been questioned by authorities as part of the federal investigation, Lowy said.