Documents detail reasonings for termination of Tennessee’s top vaccination official

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 10:22 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Tennessee’s chief medical officer cited lack of effective leadership as the reason in his recommendation to fire Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the state’s former top vaccination official.

WMC Action News 5 has a copy of Dr. Fiscus’ termination documents obtained through an open records request. She maintains her firing was politically motivated. We also learned her husband ran for political office, speaking out loudly against one of Governor Bill Lee’s signature legislative items.

Fiscus was fired Monday after being criticized by GOP lawmakers for the Tennessee Department of Health’s (TDH) COVID-19 vaccine outreach program for teenagers. In this memo to TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, Chief Medical Officer Tim Jones recommended Fiscus be fired due to her “failure to maintain good working relationships with members of her team, her lack of effective leadership, her lack of appropriate management, and unwillingness to consult with superiors and other internal stakeholders on Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Immunization Program (VPDIP) projects.”

Jones says when he and another doctor met with Fiscus to discuss complaints against her alleged disrespectful treatment and ineffective management on her part, the meeting ended with a “refusal of both parties to communicate constructively.”

Jones also alleged that in May 2021, Fiscus shared a letter of “her own interpretation of state and federal law with external partners with respect to vaccinations and other medical treatment of minors.” He said the letter should have been reviewed by both leadership and departmental legal counsel. Fiscus said the information had been cleared by counsel.

“These examples clearly demonstrate that Dr. Fiscus’ performance has led to strained relationships with internal and external stakeholders at multiple levels, and to an ineffective and non-cohesive workplace,” Jones said in his memo.

In 2019, Fiscus’ husband, Brad Fiscus, a Williamson County School Board member, ran as an independent against Republican and Speaker of the House Glen Casada. Brad Fiscus spoke out against Lee’s push for school vouchers and charter schools, even writing an editorial published in The Tennessean.

Thursday, July 15, Brad Fiscus provided the media with copies of his wife’s job evaluations. In write-ups from 2019 and 2020, her supervisor called her a “strong leader” and “integral piece of the COVID pandemic response.”

The evaluations go on to say, “Her leadership and efforts in multiple areas have been critical.”

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