All 15 members of the Senate Republican Caucus are once again calling for the formation of a Senate Select Committee on the Executive Branch’s Response to the COVID-19 pandemic after Governor Murphy’s Administration disclosed a $53 million settlement with the families of 119 residents who died in New Jersey veteran’s homes.
In a letter to Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, the caucus urged the formation of an investigative committee with subpoena powers to seek answers to enduring questions about the Administration’s Covid strategies.
“We must get answers regarding the decisions, the edicts, and the guidance the Murphy team imposed on veterans and nursing home administrators that may have triggered the devastating results,” the Republican letter stated.
With the power to compel witness testimony, the committee could lift the veil of secrecy and uncover answers that have eluded legislators, members of the media, and the public despite multiple open public records act requests.
“It was, and remains, our contention that the investigation would improve transparency and accountability and provide important insight of an Administration that has preferred to govern by executive order,” the Senate Republicans said in the letter.
The full text of the letter is below:
December 28, 2021
Dear Senate President Sweeney and Senator Scutari,
The Administration’s recent $53 million settlement for the deaths of 119 residents of New Jersey veteran’s homes who died from COVID revives our call for an investigatory committee with subpoena power to review the Executive Branch’s pandemic performance.
Not coincidentally, news of the settlement was revealed to a reporter after the Governor departed on a flight to Costa Rica for vacation and disclosed by NJ.com late in the afternoon the day before Christmas Eve.
This appears to be an orchestrated scheme designed to avoid scrutiny and shield the Governor from answering crucial questions during the holiday news void.
That settlement, and everything that led up to it, demands explanation, and the silence from the front office is unacceptable but not surprising.
The Administration has never explained the rationale of decisions during the pandemic that led to the loss of almost 10,000 vulnerable seniors.
News of the $53 million payoff, tendered without the participation or consultation of the duly elected Legislature, leaves us no choice but to once again renew the call for the Senate to form a Select Committee with subpoena powers to investigate the Executive Branch’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on nursing home residents, too many of whom lost their lives.
We need to understand where these taxpayer dollars are coming from, and how the Governor justified the expenditure without including the Legislature. Specifically, are federal coronavirus funds, or some other funds, expected to be used for the settlement?
We also must get answers regarding the decisions, the edicts, and the guidance the Murphy team imposed on veterans and nursing home administrators that may have triggered the devastating results.
Our caucus wonders what this settlement portends for the thousands of other families affected by the Administration’s orders.
The Governor’s Administration has maintained all along that their instructions to the long-term care facilities were not at fault, yet the monetary settlement would suggest otherwise.
The Senate Republican caucus first called for a Senate Select Committee in a letter on May 13, 2020. That was the first of six similar communications
It was, and remains, our contention that the investigation would improve transparency and accountability and provide important insight of an Administration that has preferred to govern by executive order.
Through the pandemic, the Governor has eschewed the Legislature and its constitutionally ensured role as an equal and separate branch of government.
It is the opinion of our elected caucus that the results we have seen during two years of pandemic – including the $53 million settlement – clearly demonstrate the need for legislative participation.
It is time for the Senate to get off the bench and get into the action.