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North Jersey GOP Senators Continue to Question Gov. Murphy’s Decisions on LTC Facilities, Veterans Homes

North Jersey State Sens. Joe Pennacchio and Kristin Corrado blasted Gov. Phil Murphy’s pick for assistant CEO at the Menlo Park veterans home, continuing a trend of criticizing the governor regarding actions at these long-term care (LTC) facilities.

“The Governor’s bold idea for new leadership to fix our veterans homes is to bring back those who failed the first time around” said Pennacchio (R-26).

A published report indicated new leadership at the Menlo Park facility as well as the veterans facility in Paramus, with Scott Mueller listed as assistant CEO at Menlo Park.

“More than 100 seniors lost their lives in the 180-resident facility while Scott Mueller stood silent. He never sounded the alarm or took action to save lives,” said Pennacchio.

Previous Suspension

Pennacchio questioned the logic behind bringing Mueller back on in a leadership position after the deaths reported at veterans homes and other LTC facilities early in the pandemic.

Additionally, Mueller faced a five day suspension in 2017 for failing to preserve video evidence in four alleged cases of abuse or neglect of residents, according to a Civil Service Commission decision in 2018.

All of this made Corrado (R-40) wonder why Murphy would think to bring him back was the right move.

“I can’t imagine the state can’t find more qualified candidates without the baggage,” she said.

Emergency Powers

Claiming the state’s neighbor of New York had already done the right thing, Pennacchio stressed that New Jersey should strip Gov. Murphy of his emergency powers.

Pennacchio argued the governor first declared the Public Health Emergency March 9, 2020, and that it has been extended by executive order a dozen times

“With repeated extensions of the declaration that give the governor inflated powers, Murphy has gone too far and abused the intent. It is time for New Jersey to return to governing as stipulated in the State Constitution,” he said.

Pennacchio is sponsoring two measures that would limit emergency orders issued by the governor to 14 days.

GOP Hearings

The calls comes after GOP lawmakers March 5 opened their first in a series of investigations into the Murphy Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic by honing in on the state’s early policies at nursing and veterans homes. 

Originally, Democrats in Trenton agreed in May 2020 to investigate the actions of the state government to make sure reforms were implemented to prevent the devastation the pandemic has caused. But the seven-member Republican committee was empaneled after efforts to start the bipartisan hearings were stalled by Democratic lawmakers in both the State Senate and Assembly.  

During the over a four-hour hearing held on Facebook, a doctor, a nursing home advocate and relatives of residents who died from the coronavirus detailed how the administration’s early response lacked transparency and a tactical approach led to unnecessary loss of life.

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