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PA National Guard leader abruptly retires amid investigations into veterans’ nursing home, Horsham air base

PA National Guard Armory Building (Emilyann1012/WikiCommons)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s top military affairs official abruptly retired over the weekend amid investigations into dozens of coronavirus deaths at a state-run veterans home in Chester County and allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation at a National Guard station in Montgomery County.

Wolf on Saturday announced that Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli was retiring from his cabinet-level position, effective immediately. The administration would not explain the reasons for his departure.

Carrelli, as adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, was in charge of the state’s National Guard units, as well as six state-run nursing homes for veterans and their spouses.

Both institutions have faced scrutiny this year.

In August, two Philadelphia-area congresswomen asked Carrelli to address allegations of misconduct at the Horsham Air Guard Station. The letter to Carrelli followed an Inquirer report in which the base’s former sexual assault response coordinator said she was unfairly terminated, and other women described years of rampant sexual harassment and discrimination.

A National Guard brigadier general from West Virginia is now investigating the Horsham base, according to people who have recently been interviewed. Carrelli is a former commander there.

Carrelli’s department is also facing an outside investigation into how it responded to the coronavirus pandemic at the Southeastern Veterans’ Center, where at least 42 people died of COVID-19.

The Inquirer has reported on how the pandemic tore through the 238-bed home in Chester County, while residents and their families struggled to get information. Officials were slow to adopt infection-control procedures and initially discouraged nurses and aides from wearing face masks.

Employees there told The Inquirer in May that the facility had been mismanaged for years under Commandant Rohan Blackwood and his senior staff. Blackwood and his director of nursing were suspended in May as the state investigation got underway.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a report last week that criticized the nursing home’s slow response to the virus.

Carrelli could not immediately be reached Monday about his retirement.

Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Wolf, declined to elaborate on the circumstances of Carrelli’s departure, other than to say in an email: “Maj. Gen. Carrelli’s decision to retire last week after 35 years of public service was not made at the request of the administration.”

Wolf has appointed Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler as acting adjutant general.

Carrelli, who was paid $176,760 a year, is a former Air Force fighter pilot who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was named adjutant general in January 2016.


(c) 2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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