BOSTON - Francisco Urena, the former head of Massachusetts Veterans' Services, who was in charge when dozens of veterans died in the Holyoke Soldiers' Home during the COVID 19 pandemic is back on the state payroll. Urena previously resigned in the wake of the soldiers' deaths.
Governor Charlie Baker heaped praise on Urena when he introduced him at an event in 2019. That was before he resigned as Secretary of Veterans' Services in the wake of the devastating COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home that left more than 77 veterans dead.
Laurie Mandeville Beaudette's father was one of them. "The pain is always there no matter what," she told the I-Team. "I can't believe that my dad died the way he did alone. No one should have to die like that."
Laurie and the other families of the soldiers who died sued the state and Urena for his role in failing to keep the veterans safe. They settled the case for $56 million in May.
Just one month earlier in April, the state website shows Urena back on the payroll, earning $100,000 as the Deputy Director of Military Initiatives at Mass Development, a state agency.
"It's unreal, such a slap in the face to the veterans that died up there. I can't believe the state of Massachusetts would re-hire him," Laurie said.
Steve Connor is a veterans affairs officer and a friend of Urena. He says in the Holyoke tragedy Urena was not the only one to blame. "I don't think all of that was on him. There were so many mistakes there were so many problems that I don't think you can blame it on one individual," Connor said. "I'm glad that he found a chance to keep serving."
Urena told the I-Team in a phone call that he was hired in April but refused to tell us how he got the job and hung up when we asked about his salary. We reached out to Mass Development about Urena's employment but did not hear back.
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