Long-awaited report on NJ’s COVID-19 response now expected early in 2024

December 18, 2023
NJ Spotlight News

Types : In the News

State officials won’t say who’s been interviewed. Local public health officials say they should be consulted.

A report assessing New Jersey’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic should be released by the end of March, according to the lead attorney conducting the independent review, a process Gov. Phil Murphy called for repeatedly early in the outbreak and initiated late last year.

New Jersey has spent more than $3.7 million on the process as of November, according to state officials, but they declined to share any details on who has been interviewed or what the work has revealed. There is no set budget for the review — which Murphy initially suggested would be done by late 2023 — and it is not clear how much it will eventually cost taxpayers.

The work is being led by attorney Paul Zoubek, a partner at Montgomery McCracken Walker and Rhoads, in their Cherry Hill office. Zoubek, who has experience working in the U.S. attorney’s office and with several governors in New Jersey, was retained as special counsel in November 2022, according to his contract with the state, which allows the firm to collect $400 an hour for work done by partners and their associates and $90 an hour for paralegal tasks.

“We are continuing with our extensive work examining New Jersey’s response to the covid pandemic. We expect that the report will be released before the end of March,” Zoubek said in an email.

Zoubek’s team has had help from staff at Boston Consulting Group, a global management expert, and his law firm finalized this subcontractor arrangement in mid-April, records show. Boston Consulting agreed to assess the state’s response, identify what worked and what did not, and recommend improvements for future emergencies, according to the contract with Zoubek’s firm, for which the lawyers will pay them a total of $5 million for completing these three phases of work.