Head of Holyoke Soldiers' Home Resigns 10 Days After His Firing Was Overturned

The Massachusetts veterans' home was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak that killed at least 76 residents

Soldiers' Home in Holyoke where at least 76 elderly veterans have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, pictured on June 24, 2020 in Holyoke, MA.
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The head of a Massachusetts veterans' home that was the center of a deadly coronavirus outbreak has resigned from his post, 10 days after his firing was overturned by a judge.

Superintendent Bennett Walsh submitted his resignation to the board of trustees Friday.

Walsh had been fired in June, but the move by Gov. Charlie Baker's administration was invalidated last Tuesday, when a Hampden Superior Court judge ruled it unlawful.

Days later, Attorney General Maura Healey filed criminal charges against Walsh and David Clinton, the home's former medical director. Each faces five counts of criminal neglect and causing serious bodily injury.

A lawsuit has been filed connected to the COVID deaths of residents of a Holyoke veterans' home.

The charges stem from the March 27 decision to combine 42 veterans into a single unit. Some of those veterans had tested positive for the coronavirus, while others did not have symptoms.

"We have charged these two — Walsh and Clinton — because they were the ultimate decision makers," Healey said last week. "They were ultimately responsible for the deadly decision to consolidate these two units."

Walsh could face prison time if convicted of causing or permitting serious bodily harm of an elder, according to Attorney General Maura Healey's office, who said the case is believed to be the first in the nation brought against nursing home officials for actions during the pandemic.

In total, at least 76 veterans died after contracting COVID-19 at the soldiers' home.

Walsh has defended his response, saying state officials initially refused in March to send National Guard aid even as the home was dealing with dire staffing shortages. A message left with his attorney Friday was not immediately returned.

A special meeting of the home's board of trustees was set to take place Monday, but it was called off after Walsh resigned.

"The Board of Trustees looks forward to a thoughtful and robust search process to fill this critical leadership position," Chairman Kevin Jourdain said in a statement Friday.

A statement from the Baker administration released after Walsh's resignation didn't make direct note of the change, saying only that the administration has focused on veterans' health and safety since March 30, when Walsh was removed.

“An interim leadership team established by the Administration remains in place while a search for a qualified candidate for superintendent is underway,” the statement said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NBC/The Associated Press
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