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Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh Challenges Pearlstein Report

Bennett Walsh, superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, speaking at a memorial service in 2017.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos
Bennett Walsh, superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers Home, speaking at a memorial service in 2017.

The superintendent at the center of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home crisis is challenging an independent investigator's conclusions about his qualifications for the job and hinted at potential legal action to fight his impending termination. 

An attorney for Bennett Walsh, who has been on paid administrative leave since late March as COVID-related deaths in the facility mounted, said Walsh was not given an opportunity to rebut portions of the report by former prosecutor Mark Pearlstein before its publication.

Pearlstein's report outlined management issues before the pandemic began and a series of "utterly baffling" decisions that led to the deaths of at least 76 veteran residents.

The investigation concluded that Walsh was not "not qualified" to lead the facility.

Walsh's attorney, former Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett, is "reviewing legal options" after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said while releasing the report that he would fire Walsh. Such a move, Bennett said, "violates the order of the Superior Court and denies Mr. Walsh the opportunity for a fair and public hearing."

The report "contains many baseless accusations that are immaterial to the issues under consideration," Bennett said.

Administration officials have said they did not learn about problems in the home until conditions had already deteriorated.

Bennett said Wednesday that the report makes clear Walsh sounded the alarm in a timely fashion.

"The report does establish that the original accusations that Mr. Walsh reported nothing to state officials and tried to keep everyone in the dark are false," Bennett said in a statement. "It is clear that Mr. Walsh reached out for help when the crisis erupted. He indeed did request National Guard medical assistance. The failure of the Commonwealth to affirmatively respond to that request contributed to many of the problems outlined in the report."

Attorney General Maura Healey and U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling are still investigating the Holyoke home, while House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced Wednesday that House lawmakers now intend to launch an inquiry. 

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