Baker: I forgot about Walsh interview

Says he talked to Soldiers' Home chief before swearing him in

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said Friday he “forgot” he had spoken with former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh before naming him to the post, and expressed interest in taking action to implement reforms at the home after last year’s deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Though Baker had previously said he first met Walsh, who was hired despite a lack of experience in health care management, when he swore him in, his administration confirmed in a Boston Globe Spotlight report into the events leading up to the outbreak that killed at least 76 veterans that Baker had interviewed Walsh beforehand.

“I forgot,” Baker said when asked Friday about the discrepancy. “The board, the board at Holyoke which had the legal authority to so, chose him, and he and I had a brief interview before I swore him in.”

That interview was “about a 30-minute conversation,” Baker said.

A legislative committee on Monday released its report into the outbreak, which among other findings proposed reforms around chain of command and leadership requirements at the home.

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Katie Lannan

State House News Service
Based on a “quick read” of that report, Baker said he hopes “that we will be able to work with the Legislature to implement many of the reforms,” which he described as similar to measures in a bill he filed and the findings of an independent probe commissioned by his office.

“The good news, to the extent there is some on this issue, is the legislative report and the Pearlstein report and our legislation that we filed earlier in the year are all basically chasing the same reforms, and they’re critical reforms,” Baker said. “They’re important reforms, and I’m anxious to work with the legislature to get them done, and I fully expect those are things we’ll be talking to them about in the weeks ahead.”