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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Murphy doesn’t know who is running state veterans homes

Hours after Piterski resignation, governor can’t say who is in charge of services for veterans

By Nikita Biryukov, April 28 2020 4:36 pm

5:34 p.m. Update: After this story was published, the governor’s office identified Retired Col. Walter Nall as Piterski’s acting replacement. They declined to comment on the circumstances of the general’s departure, citing a policy that bars comment on personnel matters.

Gov. Phil Murphy could not say Tuesday who had taken control of the state agency in charge of New Jersey’s veterans homes in the wake of retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Piterski’s resignation.

“There’s an acting person who came in from under him. I don’t know that name,” Murphy said.

Piterski resigned from his post as deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs on Monday evening, less than one week after he dropped an independent challenge to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff).

The retired Army general and combat veteran oversaw the Divisions of Veterans Services and Veterans Healthcare Services.

The latter agency administers the state’s veteran memorial homes, some of which have been devastated by COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home reported 189 confirmed COVID-19 cases, meaning more than 90% of residents there had contracted the virus.

Of those that have tested positive for COVID-19, 57 have died, and four have recovered.

Menlo Park’s Veterans Memorial Home reported only 76 infections, but 45 residents there have died after contracting COVID-19.

The governor directed questions about Piterski’s resignation and replacement to his communications team.

“I’ve got no more insights into that, and if we do, we’ll give that to you,” he said.

Murphy’s press team has not responded to a 2:29 PM email seeking clarification about who is overseeing under Piterski’s purview.

At 3 PM., a spokesman for the governor directed questions regarding Piterski and his successor to Kryn Westhoven, a public affairs specialist with the DMAVA.

Westhoven did not immediately respond to a 3:24 PM email asking who was tapped to replace the former general.

An organization chart on the DMAVA website showed listed Sean Van Lew as working under Piterski at the Division of Veterans Health Services.

Neither Murphy nor any of the spokespeople contacted by the New Jersey Globe have been able to provide a reason for Piterski’s resignation.

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