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Assemblyman Christopher P. DePhillips. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

DePhillips seeks answers on Neuwirth firing, wants state ethics probe

Assemblyman: ‘Merely stating that Mr. Neuwirth is no longer an employee of the department is insufficient’

By David Wildstein, May 29 2020 11:48 am

Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-Wyckoff) wants the state Commissioner of Health to address questions regarding outside employment held by one of her top deputies that was fired on Thursday and is asking the State Ethics Commission to launch an investigation.

The Murphy administration terminated Neuwirth, the assistant commissioner for Public Health Infrastructure, Laboratories & Emergency Preparedness and an advisor to Gov. Phil Murphy on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The New Jersey Globe first reported late Thursday evening that Neuwirth had been fired.  The administration has not responded to a request for comment.

“Merely stating that Mr. Neuwirth is no longer an employee of the department is insufficient,” DePhillips said.

In a letter to Commissioner Judy Persichilli obtained by the Globe, DePhillips asked when she became aware of his private employment with Margolis Healy & Associates, a national emergency management firm, and his financial relationship with Emergency Manager Project LLC, a business he started to train EMTs regulated by the office he ran.

“This crisis has required an all-hands-on-deck response from our government to limit the pain and suffering among New Jerseyans,” DePhillips said.  “As this pandemic pushed New Jersey’s healthcare infrastructure past the brink of capacity, the person we had in charge was pre-occupied with two other private business interests.”

DePhillips is also seeking a formal inquiry into Neuwirth’s business dealings by the ethics commission.

“Under ‘normal’ circumstances, this is concerning information from both an ethical and operational standpoint,” the North Jersey legislator said. “However, as New Jersey endures a COVID-19 death count that has now surpassed 10,000 people, it is horrifying to think that this (Department of Health) Assistant Commissioner was engaged in private business dealings while New Jerseyans suffered.”

Among the issues DePhillips wants addressed is whether any Department of Health contracts were awarded to Margolis Healy, and why Neuwirth didn’t disclose his employment with that firm on his 2019 financial disclosure field with the ethics commission.

In addition to Persichilli, DePhillips wants to know if the Health Department’s ethics officer was aware of Neuwirth’s private business interests.

In a Facebook post, Neuwirth said he was being “scapegoated.”

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