FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HOLMDEL, NEW JERSEY (May 26, 2021)–Former Assistant Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health’s Division of Public Health, Infrastructure, Laboratories and Emergency Preparedness, Christopher Neuwirth, filed a motion today in his pending whistle-blower lawsuit to add claims of defamation against the State, Governor Murphy and Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips.
The pending whistle-blower lawsuit, which was first filed on June 16, 2020, alleges that Mr. Neuwirth was unlawfully terminated in retaliation for lodging a complaint to the State Ethics Commission concerning the conduct of two high ranking members of Governor Murphy’s administration, Acting Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan and Governor Murphy’s Chief of Staff, George Helmy. According to the First Amended Complaint, Callahan pressured Mr. Neuwirth to collect specimens of relatives of Mr. Helmy at their private residence for COVID-19 testing. When Mr. Neuwirth lodged an ethics complaint for this instruction, the Ethics Liaison Officer refused to process the complaint and implicitly threatened Mr. Neuwirth with possible criminal ramifications if he proceeded. DOH leadership then began to ostracize Mr. Neuwirth by excluding him from important COVID-19 response meetings, essentially stripping him of all decision-making duties and responsibilities, culminating in his termination on May 28, 2020.
Immediately following the May 28, 2020 termination, “anonymous sources” told news outlets that Mr. Neuwirth was terminated “for cause.” These “anonymous sources” unnamed accused Mr. Neuwrith of failing to to properly disclose and obtain State approval to engage in outside consulting work with Margolis Healy and Associates, that he became overloaded with his work at MHA that distracted him from his responsibilities during the pandemic and that he faced criticism for poor attendance at the DOH.
The following day, when asked during his May 29, 2020 Coronavirus Press Briefing about Mr. Neuwirth’s termination, Governor Murphy stated, “folks are not – it’s par for the course that you’re not supposed to have another source of income…” Assemblyman DePhillips also published statements concerning Mr. Neuwirth, including, “As this pandemic pushed New Jersey’s healthcare infrastructure past the brink of capacity, the person we had in charge was pre-occupied with two other private business interests.”
Mr. Neuwirth has adamantly denied all these accusations, and has asserted that they are easily proven false by the State’s own records. Specifically, the motion papers filed today include Mr. Neuwirth’s Outside Activity Questionnaire (“OAQ”) through which he disclosed and received State approval for his consulting work, as early as December 5, 2019.
Also contained in the filed papers are letters from Mr. Neuwirth’s attorney, Christopher J. Eibeler of Smith Eibeler, LLC to Governor Murphy and Assemblyman DePhillips demanding they issue retractions of the false public statements they made about the reasons for Mr. Neuwirth’s termination and putting them on notice of the damage they had caused to Mr. Neuwirth’s reputation and career. The motion alleges that neither Governor Murphy nor Assemblyman DePhillips was willing to retract their remarks despite being presented with the OAQ.
“Mr. Neuwirth is confident that the evidence will show he is the victim of a retaliatory discharge for blowing the whistle on unethical governmental conduct”, said Mr. Eibeler. The Governor and the Assemblyman were both offered the opportunity to retract the false statements they made about Mr. Neuwirth. They both declined. As a result, Mr. Neuwirth is pursuing every legal remedy available to him and looks forward to his day in court.”