The trumpeted sexual harassment suit against Gov. James McGreevey by former aide Golan Cipel would no doubt be the most sensational employment case in state history. The threat alone led the governor to resign and acknowledge that he is gay.
So who did Cipel, identified by McGreevey aides as the man with whom the governor had a consensual, adulterous affair, turn to as his lawyer?
Not a plaintiffs’ employment attorney familiar with the state’s Law Against Discrimination.
Instead, the Israeli national hired by McGreevey as a homeland security adviser chose Allen Lowy, a friend who lives in the same midtown high-rise he does.
Lowy has no visible labor and employment experience, is not admitted in New Jersey and, according to a close friend and colleague, is not a litigator.
Lowy has brought on co-counsel, but that lawyer, Great Neck, N.Y., solo Rachel Yosevitz, has handled primarily insurance and real estate matters.
Why Lowy? The 46-year-old Manhattan solo says he has worked on employment matters in New York but declines to name them, citing confidentiality in some cases and saying others are pending.
But McGreevey aides and allies, including lawyers, have another explanation: extortion.
They say the governor, who claims the affair was consensual, called Cipel’s and Lowy’s bluff and took away his only leverage, the possibility of keeping the matter secret.
Alleging that Lowy pushed for a $5 million settlement in face-to-face meetings, the governor had his lawyer, William Lawler III, refer the matter to the FBI.
Lowy denies any shakedown attempt. “I never made a settlement offer,” he said in a telephone interview Friday. Further, he says it was the governor’s representatives who asked what specific dollar amount would keep Cipel quiet.
Lowy also accuses McGreevey representatives, including Lawler, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Vinson & Elkins, of attempting to intimidate him and Cipel.
“They tried to persuade me not to file, saying that if I filed, not only will Golan be put under scrutiny, but that, quote, we’ll look into you too, end quote.”