The trustees that govern the Holyoke Soldiers Home have tapped its first permanent leader since the aftermath of a COVID-19 outbreak that killed dozens of veterans died there, sources tell the NBC10 Investigators.
Mike Lazo, a licensed nursing home administrator, was appointed by the Board of Trustees, sources say. He is a former colonel of the Massachusetts National Guard who was brought in to lead the National Guard's mission at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in the wake of the 78 deaths in 2020. He has been the interim superintendent since December 2020.
The last permanent superintendent was Bennett Walsh, who was in charge during the pandemic and resigned in October 2020, after his firing was overturned by a judge.
He was charged criminally by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. Those charges were dismissed but the case is under appeal and being reviewed by the Supreme Judicial Court.
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Walsh made a string of what one independent investigator called "utterly baffling" decisions that failed to rein in the deadly virus. A lawyer for Walsh has said he was denied emergency aid as leadership and staff frantically worked to protect the residents.
Since the outbreak, Massachusetts approved a $56 million settlement with families and lawmakers have worked on overhauling oversight of the facility, as well as the Chelsea Soldiers Home.
More coverage of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home
State House News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.