U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw this month said that Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) Commissioner Lisa Piercey and TDOH Chief Medical Officer Tim Jones have qualified immunity against claims from former TDOH official Michelle Fiscus.
Qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff’s rights.
According to Crenshaw’s ruling, which The Tennessee Star obtained Wednesday, Fiscus wanted Piercey and Jones to pay monetary damages.
Last summer, Fiscus was fired from her job directing the TDOH’s Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization Program. Fiscus said she was fired for informing the public about the mature minor doctrine, but the memo told a different story.
“Days later, an internal memorandum (‘the memo’) began circulating in the media that Dr. Fiscus insists impugned her honesty and morality by ‘casting her as a rogue political operative pursuing her own agenda and as a self-dealing grifter of the public purse, seeking to divert government funds to an organization in which she had an unethical material financial interest,’” according to claims made in Crenshaw’s ruling.
Fiscus said she requested but did not receive a hearing to clear her name.
According to that memo, Fiscus, even after coaching sessions, failed to maintain good working relationships with members of her team, was an ineffective leader, and was unwilling to consult with her superiors on important projects.
“Dating back to December 2020, the vaccine planning team required intervention by CEDEP leadership to address inefficient use of team resources, including poor inter-program communication regarding vaccine distribution,” according to the memo.
“Repeated failures by Dr. Fiscus to appropriately delegate to others resulted in repetitive, long, and inefficient meetings. These meetings took already busy colleagues away from other tasks.”
Fiscus said she was unaware of the memo at the time of her firing and only learned about it after someone leaked it to the media.
Crenshaw, in his ruling, said that Piercey and Jones will remain as defendants for the purposes of potential declaratory and injunctive relief.
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