Former commissioner of DPH talks about abrupt firing; says she’s a ‘victim of discrimination bias’


CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — It’s been three months since Renée Coleman-Mitchell, former Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, was fired.

Her abrupt termination came at the height of the state’s COVID-19 response effort.

She told News 8 her firing was an example of “discriminatory bias.” Coleman-Mitchell said she was fired without reason and was told Governor Ned Lamont was “going in a different direction.”

“I asked if that means I’m no longer the commissioner,” she recalled. “There was an abrupt silence and then the word, ‘yup.’”

That was back in May. It’s now August and Coleman-Mitchell said she has received nothing further in regards to her termination.

“The relationship I had with the governor was excellent,” she said. “I say that intentionally because the media has painted it as it was not. To have the governor then appoint Josh Geballe as the Chief Operating Officer to oversee the COVID-19 response on behalf of the state of Connecticut, when he was the commissioner for the administrative services, DAS, for the state, who has an IBM background, not a single shred of public health practice or experience.”

RELATED: News 8’s Chief Political Correspondent Mark Davis sits down with Josh Geballe to talk about his role in the coronavirus crisis

Coleman-Mitchell, a seasoned public health official with more than 30 years of experience, claimed she was the one who first sounded the alarm to the Lamont administration on the need to act fast when the virus was spreading to nursing homes.

“The number of the vulnerable population impacted by COVID-19 in these settings was monumental. There were a number of individuals that could have truly not been impacted in such a negative way in terms of illness and death.”

She said she waved the red flag on March 5 for Lamont to issue an order to end nursing home visitations in order to protect the state’s most vulnerable. However, the order wasn’t in effect until March 13.

“With what happened with the firing, its almost as if it intentionally put out there as if I was the problem and issue as to why the nursing homes weren’t addressed in a timely fashion, and that is not the case.”

The state has contracted policy research firm Mathematica to conduct an independent review of the state’s pandemic response efforts. Coleman-Mitchell said she refuses to be scapegoated in the process.

“They were answering to the chief operating officer, so they were not listening to me, and they did not give me the respect as the public health commissioner making the decision to go forward,” she said.

As it stands, Coleman-Mitchell said she’s still in the dark about her professional career and where she goes next.

“How do you think it felt…to be humiliated and treated as such that I was considered the public health commissioner and yet this individual with no public health experience is put into office leading the incident command to address COVID-19, and I am thrown aside. Was that the intentions of the governor? That’s a question for him.”

When asked about the former commissioners comments, Lamont said, “Now, it’s become a personal issue and these are new accusations, but its a personnel issue and let that take care of itself.”

Coleman-Mitchell claimed she spoke with Lamont 48 hours after her termination in which he promised a year’s salary, benefits and a recommendation letter which highlights her accomplishments and contributions over her 13-month span as commissioner.

To date, he has not fulfilled that promise.

News 8 reached out to Geballe, he chose not to comment.

Her attorney released a statement on her behalf Tuesday night. It read:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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