DePhillips wants probe of top N.J. health official’s termination

TRENTON, N.J. – The firing of a senior Murphy Administration health official following the deaths of 1 in 10 New Jersey nursing home residents is leading to frustration and anger both inside and outside of Trenton.

On Friday, Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-40) asked the State Ethics Commission to investigate the termination of Assistant Commissioner Christopher Neuwirth who was in charge of COVID-19 emergency preparedness.

DePhillips fired off two letters.

The first was sent to Mark T. Holmes, executive director of the State Ethics Commission.

The second letter was addressed to Commissioner Judy Persichilli. DePhillips’s question was simple: when Persichilli learned of her lieutenant’s private employment with a national emergency management firm as well as the nature of his relationship with a business which trains EMTs; Neuwith’s office was charged with regulating this business, representing a massive potential conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, in the State Senate, Joe Pennacchio (R-26) echoed calls for an investigation. 

“With the revelation that the fired assistant commissioner of health claims he was being ‘scapegoated,’ and recent statements by the commissioner herself that she and the Governor had yet to have a ‘one on one meeting,’ a picture begins to emerge,” said Pennacchio. “A picture of a chaotic department that was in over their heads. A picture that saw the Administration safely fall back on and hide behind the skirts of the CDC, FDA, and WHO for guidance. A picture that had no forethought in COVID policy but rather played follow the leader with New York. An administration that became comfortable managing this mess instead of looking for ways to lead us out. The souls of 6,000 dead in our nursing homes and their families deserve answers now.”

“The only way we’re going to get to the bottom of this mess is with a thorough and immediate investigation,” added Pennacchio. “The Senate should convene it’s special committee as soon as possible, and the former high-ranking official should be subpoenaed as one of the first witnesses.”