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

DePhillips seeks more answers on Neuwirth firing

Assemblyman again raises ethics concerns over former senior staffer’s outside work

By Nikita Biryukov, June 08 2020 10:34 am

Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-Wyckoff) on Monday sent a second letter seeking answers about outside work taken on by a senior Department of Health Official who has since been fired.

“We need answers from the Department of Health. We need to know who specifically approved Neuwirth’s outside employment and on what basis,” DePhillips said. “Beyond the specific questions I have asked in my recent letters to Commissioner Persichilli, we also need to get to the bottom of all the leaks coming from DOH employees.”

Chris Neuwirth, the former assistant commissioner for Public Health Infrastructure, Laboratories and Emergency Preparedness, was fired last month. Gov. Phil Murphy and his administration have so far declined to comment publicly on the firing, citing a policy that bars comment on personnel issues.

In his latest letter, DePhillips asked the state to identify the ethics liaison officer responsible for approving Neuwirth’s outside work with Margolis Healy & Associates, a national emergency management firm, and Emergency Manager Project LLC, a business he started to train EMTs regulated by the office he ran.

The Assemblyman also asked for opinions issued by the ethics liaison officer that would have allowed Neuwirth to continue holding the two jobs while clearing him of any potential conflicts of interest.

The Margolis job was not listed on Neuwirth’s financial disclosure.

“Was Neuwirth fired because of his outside employment, job performance related to the pandemic, or because he is a whistleblower?” DePhillips said. “Has data been driving the Department’s decisions during the pandemic, or other considerations? The Legislature deserves answers to these questions quickly.”

Monday’s letter follows ones issued by DePhillips last week. Then, he sought to learn whether Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli was aware of Neuwirth’s private-sector gigs and asked what the department was doing to ensure Neuwirth did not use his position to improperly benefit the two private firms.

That letter, DePhillips said in the communication sent Monday, has not yet seen a response.

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