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Ousted Public Health Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell details her federal discrimination lawsuit

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Nicole Leonard
/
Connecticut Public Radio

Former State Department of Public Health Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell has filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Connecticut, alleging her firing in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic was the result of racial discrimination.

This hour, All Things Considered host John Henry Smith fills in for Lucy Nalpathanchil to speak with Coleman-Mitchell, who details her allegations.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, names Governor Lamont among other members of his administration, alleging her firing was "simply on the basis that he did not prefer to have an older African-American female in the public eye as the individual leading the state in the fight against COVID-19." The lawsuit says her duties were "usurped" by former State Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe.

Geballe and a spokesperson for the Lamont Administration each declined to comment. A spokesperson for State Department of Social Services Commissioner Deidre Gifford, who replaced Coleman-Mitchell in the wake of her firing, also did not comment, citing the pending litigation.

When asked about the treatment of women of color in his administration on Where We Live, Governor Lamont noted his administration has "more women and more women of color in our administration than any administration in history."

In August of 2020, the Associated Press reported "dozens of state and local public health leaders around the U.S. have resigned or have been fired amid the coronavirus outbreak, a testament to how politically combustible masks, lockdowns and infection data have become."

Later in the hour, CT News Junkie's Christine Stuart joins us for analysis.

Stuart touches on tension earlier in Coleman-Mitchell's 13-month term, noting "the controversial decision to release anonymized school-by-school vaccination data as the measles virus made a return to the U.S. in multiple outbreaks" in 2019. Coleman-Mitchell "had to be encouraged by Lamont to release that data after telling reporters that she wouldn’t," reports Stuart.

GUESTS:

  • Renée Coleman-Mitchell: Former Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health
  • Christine Stuart: Editor-in-Chief, CT News Junkie

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John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. In his 20th year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.
Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show Where We Live. She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH. She enjoys Victorian novels and walks with her dog Sonny.