HOLYOKE, Mass. (CBS/AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration wrongfully fired the head of a home for aging veterans where nearly 80 people sickened with the coronavirus have died, a judge has ruled.

The Hampden Superior Court judge’s ruling on Monday invalidates the firing of former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh.

Walsh was fired in June after investigators released a report pointing to “utterly baffling” decisions made by the superintendent and his leadership team that helped the disease run rampant at the home. The independent investigators said that Walsh was not qualified to run a long-term care facility.

Walsh’s lawyer argued that only the home’s board of trustees can hire and fire the superintendent. Walsh has defended his actions and accused the Baker administration of denying the home emergency aid as staff worked to protect the residents from the virus.

On Tuesday afternoon Walsh lawyer released a statement that said:

For several months Superintendent Walsh has been vilified by Governor Baker, Secretary Sudders and others. I hope that this decision will allow people to consider that perhaps that criticism is unfair and that the actual story of what happened has not yet been understood. A true inquiry into the Covid outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home should focus on the science. Covid has a unique method of transmission. It spreads silently and is transmitted by people who do not appear to be infected. When the disease got into the Soldiers’ Home, where the veterans were already vulnerable because of the living conditions and their age and health, it spread rapidly despite the good faith efforts of the staff. I would like to thank my associate, Attorney Talia Landry, for her hard work and very effective advocacy in this case. 

A spokesperson for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said the administration is reviewing the court’s decision.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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