NEW JERSEY – Republican Gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli filed Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request(s) seeking for the Governor Phil Murphy’s administration to release communications tied to an executive order that required nursing homes to readmit and separate COVID-positive residents, he announced at the end of February.
Photo: Jack Ciattarelli / Courtesy of Jack Ciattarelli.
Ciattarelli also requested communications between Murphy and New York Governor Cuomo and their staff on the pandemic response, especially as it related to nursing home policy.
On March 4, 2021 Jack Ciattarelli issued the following comment via telephone to Alie Pierce:
“NJ deserves to know about the discussions that took place within the Murphy administration and with the Cuomo administration on how our seniors and veterans were to be cared for in our nursing homes during the pandemic.”
Cuomo has faced some fire from some Republicans calling for his impeachment, after his administration adjusted upwards the number of deaths among New York’s nursing home residents. His administration’s count of long-term care center deaths initially did not include nursing home residents who died in hospitals.
The discrepancy is now the subject of a federal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department that could lead to criminal sanctions or impeaching him.
New York’s impeachment process is similar to what we have been watching in Congress. The impeachment starts in the Assembly, and a trial court is assembled for the trial. Only one governor has ever been removed by impeachment, in New York, 1913.
On March 5, Cittiarelli issued a press release about Murphy’s administration failure to respond to the OPRA request(s):
“Given what we now know about the Cuomo cover up, we demand that the Murphy Administration immediately release these records to restore the public’s trust.”
Not too long after the first case of COVID-19 in March 2020, the legislature approved a bill (Bil A-3849/S-2302) making it easier for public officials to deny access to records until the state exits its public health emergency.
Back in Summer of 2020, Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, requested information from Murphy regarding COVID-19 nursing homes run by, or for the State of New Jersey, including:
“[...] the number of persons who were admitted to a Public Nursing Home from a hospital or any other facility, hospice home care, or other location after testing positive for COVID-19 during the period the guidance orders were in effect.”
Ciattarelli gets to make a headline between Murphy and Cuomo’s nursing home politics, highlighting that both mandated nursing homes to not turn away COVID -19 positive patients.
Editor’s note: The Open Public Meetings Act, popularly known as the "Sunshine Law," was approved on October 21, 1975, and became effective on January 19, 1976 (PL 1975, chapter 231). The Sunshine Law was enacted in response to growing public cynicism about politics and distrust of government in the wake of the Vietnam War and Watergate. The intent of the Sunshine Law was to have government meetings conducted in the open, to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the public interest and without invading individual privacy.