Republican leaders in a northern Philadelphia suburb are calling for the resignation of a former Democratic political operative turned county official after reporting by National Review revealed that he, and not the county’s health director, is the listed author of restrictive school-reopening guidance that was released hastily last August.
In a press release on Friday, the Bucks County Republican Committee said reporting by National Review showing that Eric Nagy, the county’s director of policy and communication, was the listed author of last summer’s school-reopening guidance is “troubling, but not surprising.” National Review reported on Wednesday that metadata from the August 23, 2021, reopening file — a sort of digital fingerprint — lists Nagy as the author, despite claims by county leaders that the county’s health director, Dr. David Damsker, authored the guidance.
Before he went to work with Bucks County in January 2020, Nagy was a political operative in Pennsylvania, the former executive director of the local Democratic committee, and a former campaign manager for at least ten Democratic political campaigns, including the campaigns of the county’s two Democratic commissioners.
Bucks County GOP Chair Pat Poprik said in the press release that if Nagy did author the guidance, “it represents a significant overreach by a political operative, and a violation of the trust voters have in our county government. Parents rightfully expect these kinds of decisions to be made by public health professionals, not former campaign staffers.” She said Nagy should resign.
In a one-sentence email to National Review on Wednesday explaining his involvement, Nagy said, “In my role with the County, I am responsible for, and routinely involved with, reviewing and disseminating information to the public.” He provided no explanation why he is the listed author of the guidance, or who, if anyone, directed him to write the guidance. He provided no evidence that Damsker was the real author of the guidance or that he approved it. National Review has not been able to reach Damsker for comment.
For nearly a year, a group of Bucks County parents have remained skeptical that Damsker authored or approved of the guidance change, because he had long been an advocate of in-person learning, had worked to ensure that local schools would reopen last year, and had a history of offering guidance that conflicted with messaging from state and federal officials. His less-restrictive approach drew pushback from local Democratic leaders, who called for him to be fired.
On August 15, 2021, Damsker released guidance that included a mask-optional policy, targeted and temporary mitigation measures, no limits on classroom capacity, and allowing fully asymptomatic students who have been exposed outside of the home to continue in school normally. Eight days later, on August 23, a state health leader sent a letter to Bucks commissioners calling Damsker’s guidance “alarming” and calling for them to come into line with the state and with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Later that night, Bucks County did just that, issuing amended guidance with more restrictive rules about masks, quarantining, and testing.
For nearly a year, local moms Megan Brock and Jamie Walker have fought with the county to obtain emails and records that they believe could show who authored and approved the change in guidance. County leaders have filed several lawsuits to block the women from receiving some of the records they have requested. The county’s Democratic commissioners have repeatedly called Brock and Walker liars and accused them of promoting a conspiracy theory and engaging in a political “stunt.”
In her statement, Poprik said county leaders should drop their lawsuits against the moms. “The Democratic commissioners’ refusal to address this issue, and their continued lawsuits seeking to silence concerned parents, are unacceptable.”
Parent activists who led the fight last year to reopen Pennsylvania schools believe the Bucks County case is just one example of a statewide pressure campaign by Democratic governor Tom Wolf’s administration to coerce school districts into following its restrictive guidance on quarantining and masking, rolling over legislative roadblocks and local officials with a different view.