The Murphy administration has fired the state’s top Health Department official in charge of emergency preparedness during the coronavirus pandemic, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Christopher Neuwirth, who had joined Gov. Phil Murphy at several early press briefings, was the assistant commissioner of Public Health Infrastructure, Laboratories & Emergency Preparedness and oversaw emergency medical services and the state office of Disaster Resilience.
Two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Globe that Neuwirth was terminated for cause.
Neuwirth faced criticism at the Department of Health for poor attendance at his $127,386-per-year job during the pandemic.
Concurrent with his full-time post as deputy commissioner, Neuwirth also had a job with Margolis Healy & Associates, a national emergency management consulting firm affiliated with the Cozen O’Connor law firm.
The firm, the Globe learned, become overloaded with work during the COVID-19 crisis and required Neuwirth to spend more time on his private sector responsibilities.
The firm’s website lists Neuwirth as a senior associate and says he has been employed there for two years. Personal financial disclosure statements Neuwirth filed with the State Ethics Commission did not reveal his affiliation with Margolis Healy.
According to his financial disclosure, Neuwirth is an owner of Emergency Manager Project LLC, which provides training classes for EMS professionals who are licensed and regulated by the office he ran.
Sources also said Neuwirth had dismantled some of the Department of Health’s infrastructure to deal with a massive health crisis before the start of the pandemic. A decision he made regarding a federal grant for hospital preparedness being administered by a trade association has also faced some questioning.
He had also been involved in the firing of Scot Phelps as the director of the state Office of Emergency Medical Services in February.
In March, Neuwirth testified before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery chaired by Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark) as a representative of the Murphy administration.
The day before his testimony, Margolis Healy touted their employee’s pending testimony on Twitter: “Be sure to catch our colleague Christopher Neuwirth discuss Coronavirus Preparedness and Response to the Committee in Homeland Security tomorrow.”
Neuwirth did not immediately respond to a 9:35 PM direct message on his social media account seeking comment. A cell phone number previously associated with him has been disconnected.
Murphy’s office did not immediately respond to a 9:37 PM email seeking comment.