Christie replaces respected whistle blowers on Board of Nursing just days before Thursday’s Senate Legislative Oversight Committee hearing
TRENTON – Senators Bob Gordon and Loretta Weinberg today charged Governor Chris Christie with ousting Board of Nursing President Patricia Murphy and Public Member Avery Hart in retaliation for doing their duty by urging the Christie administration to address staffing shortages that crippled the Board’s ability to process thousands of nursing licensure applications and investigate complaints.
“Governor Christie’s ouster of Board of Nursing President Patricia Murphy occurred right after she and former Executive Director Dorothy Smith Carolina agreed to testify before the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee,” said Senator Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic), who chairs the oversight panel. “And Avery Hart was the board member who had the courage to stand up with us two months ago to blow the whistle on the ongoing crisis at the Board of Nursing.”
“Rather than ousting Dr. Murphy and Dr. Hart, the Governor should be thanking them for doing their duty,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), the committee’s vice-chair. “They were the ones who called attention to the staffing crisis that led to a backlog of more than 4,000 qualified nursing professionals forced to wait months for licensing approvals, and to the shortage of nurses on the Board staff qualified to conduct investigations. Unfortunately, this vindictiveness is all too typical of this Governor.”
Senators Gordon and Weinberg noted that the ousters of Dr. Murphy and Dr. Hart came just two days after the Legislative Oversight Committee invited acting Consumer Affairs Director Sharon Joyce, whose division supervises the Board of Nursing, and Deborah Zucarelli, the acting executive director of the Board of Nursing, to testify at the upcoming hearing.
In addition to Dr. Murphy, Dr. Hart and Dr. Carolina, more than a dozen leaders of New Jersey nursing organizations and unions, hospitals, college nursing programs, student nurse organizations, and home care and hospice group are already confirmed to testify at the hearing. The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee hearing on Thursday, October 5, will run from 9:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and then resume after the conclusion of the noon Senate session.
Also invited to testify is former Consumer Affairs Director Steven Lee, who resigned to take a job in the private sector less than a week after Senators Gordon and Weinberg held a press conference to call attention to the Board of Nursing crisis.
“Clearly, this has been an agency in crisis,” said Senator Weinberg. “Every member of the Board of Nursing signed a letter warning of a ‘chronic lack of staff now rising to a level that threatens the Board’s responsibility to protect the citizens of New Jersey.’ The ousters of Dr. Murphy and Dr. Hart are just the latest effort by Governor Christie to try to whitewash his administration’s failures and retaliate against anyone who stands up to him.”
Last Friday, Governor Christie announced 10 new appointments and three reappointments to the Board of Nursing; Dr. Murphy and Dr. Hart, who had served on the board since 2005 and 2007 were not reappointed.
“We called attention to six vacancies on the 15-member Board in July, and that number grew to eight this month, meaning that the Board didn’t even have a quorum to conduct business,” Senator Gordon said. “Obviously, filling those vacancies wasn’t a priority for the Governor until we announced last week that we were calling a Senate Legislative Oversight Committee hearing on the issue. I’m just sorry that Dr. Murphy and Dr. Hart are paying a price for their honesty and integrity and for putting service to the public first.”