The oversight commission of the Missouri Veterans Commission released the remaining details of an investigation into a deadly COVID-19 outbreak in its seven nursing homes today. To date, 158 veterans have died since September.
The Missouri Attorney General directed Chairman Tim Noonan to release the report, against Noonan’s objections. Noonan’s Letter to the attorney general argues that the detailed report was protected under attorney-client privilege.
State Senator Jill Schupp argued in public that the 415-page document should be released under the Sunshine Law. Noonan and other commissioners were concerned about the legal liability of staff, commissioners, and the agency itself.
“Are we creating a record that puts employees at risk, are we creating a potential roadmap for litigation against the state? These are all prudent business decisions that one makes when they have responsibility as the chair of a commission,” Noonan said in an interview with Missourinet just before the release of the report. Letters released by the Attorney General’s office to Missourinet show Noonan sought legal advice from the governor’s office as early as November 23.
He got a response from the attorney general yesterday: Attorney General’s opinion letter addressed the disclosure of information.
Noonan said the full report reveals there is “a lot of accountability and responsibility up and down the chain of command here,” including daily governance.
“The summary report was thorough, it was robust, it was fact-based and it was actionable. There was nothing inside the detailed report that stands in the way of driving the reforms and transformation that are already underway.
“There is no smoking gun in the report. It was systemic, it had issues to do with communication and hierarchy, it had to do with data analysis that was happening in the Missouri Veterans Commission but also happening in the “fusion cell” — data that was presented by the Veterans Commission to the fusion cell that was supposed to be analyzed and made into actionable intelligence, the fusion cell missed it along with the Veterans Commission.”
The “Fusion Cell,” according to the summary report, is the state’s collective response to the COVID-19 and “is meant to be a single point of information for all Missouri agencies.” It also included the consultation of the McChrystal Group, outside advisors hired by the Missouri Foundation for Health.