investigations

Embattled Chelsea Soldiers' Home Superintendent Off the Job

The soldiers' home faced scrutiny for its fumbled handling of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and officials say problems persist

Soldiers Home Chelsea
NBC10 Boston

Embattled Superintendent Eric Johnson is no longer employed at the Chelsea Soldiers Home, Gov. Maura Healey's office confirmed Thursday.

The soldiers' home in Chelsea, Massachusetts, faced scrutiny for its fumbled handling of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Thirty-one veterans died at the home from COVID-19, deaths that some say could have been prevented with better management of the outbreak.

That did prompt some changes to management and oversight practices, but recent reports say the problems persist. Johnson was appointed to his position in December 2020, but his leadership faced harsh criticism.

In September, members of the unions that represent workers at the Chelsea Soldiers' Home issued a statement of no confidence in a decision by state officials to allow Johnson to return to work. He had been on paid administrative leave since June, under investigation for allegations including sexual harassment and bullying.

A spokesperson for Gov. Maura Healey told the NBC10 Investigators, “Governor Healey and her administration remain committed to protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of our veterans.”

Conditions at the home continue to raise concerns, and reports from 2022 describe alarming issues including veterans lying "soaked in urine and sitting in feces," and said at least a dozen rooms were in "terrible" condition, with feces, dead rodents, dirt and bugs present. Earlier this month, Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro sent a letter to outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders criticizing her office's handling of the situation.

Assistant Secretary of Veterans’ Homes and Housing Robert Engell is now the acting superintendent in Chelsea.

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