Baker says Pearlstein had freedom in Holyoke Soldiers’ Home report

Hampden County
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BOSTON (State House News Service) – Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday that the former U.S. attorney he selected to investigate last year’s Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID-19 outbreak had “100 percent latitude,” contesting a new Boston Globe Spotlight report that said the probe’s conclusions shielded top officials from criticism.

Citing documents its journalists obtained and interviews with former employees of the soldiers’ home, the Globe reported Thursday that U.S. Attorney Mark Pearlstein’s report about the March 2020 outbreak that killed at least 76 veterans who resided at the facility contained “significant errors and omissions.” Some of those, the Globe reported, “fall into a pattern that shields” Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.

Asked about the Globe story after visiting a Brockton charter school Friday, Baker replied that the virus’s toll in Holyoke “was a terrible tragedy and it’s on us.” “That’s the reason why we hired a former U.S. attorney to do a thorough investigation where he had 100 percent carte blanche to do that investigation on what happened, why, what his findings were and what we should do to follow up on that,” Baker said. “Mark Pearlstein had 100 percent latitude, and he said this on a number of occasions, to go wherever he thought that report was going to take him,” he said. “The findings in that report led to a whole series of reforms that we believe were important reforms and were pretty consistent with the findings of the attorney general’s investigation as well.”

The Globe report outlined former Superintendent Bennett Walsh’s appointment to lead the facility despite his lack of health care management experience, Baker’s degree of involvement in that decision, Sudders’s awareness about internal concerns with Walsh’s job performance, and the resignation of former Veterans Services Secretary Francisco Urena shortly before the release of the Pearlstein report.

Several other investigators have been conducting their own probes of the deadly outbreak. Attorney General Maura Healey filed criminal charges against Walsh and the facility’s former medical director, David Clinton. The Legislature convened a special committee to examine the crisis, which has held eight public hearings — including one to interview Pearlstein — but has not yet publicized any findings or final report

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