Friday, July 31, 2015

Responses from city and fired health director

Last week, the city of San Antonio fired Health Director Thomas Schlenker with a terse, one-sentence termination letter. The stated reason? A “personnel matter.”

Schlenker says it has more to do with his strong stance against the influence of soft-drink companies on public-health policies. City Manager Sheryl Sculley says that's false.

Below are full statements from both sides, first from Sculley and then from Schlenker.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley Statement - Dr. Thomas Schlenker's Termination:

While we had hoped to keep the details of this personnel matter private, Dr. Schlenker’s ongoing false public statements compel me to disclose the facts of his termination. I will state again that Dr. Schlenker’s termination was not related to his position on sugary drinks. It is important to note that in 2007, well before Dr. Schlenker was hired, we removed sugary drinks from City employee vending machines as part of our City employee wellness program and our commitment to employee health and fitness goals.

Dr. Schlenker’s separation from the City was the result of a two year history of increasing dissatisfaction with his lack of leadership, continued disregard for direction and repeated instances of unprofessional conduct. Concern over his unprofessional treatment of women up and down the chain of command was communicated to him on several occasions.  His active detachment from his role within our executive team and his disconnect with City policies were also a concern.  

In October of 2014, I reassigned his reporting relationship from an Assistant City Manager to a Deputy City Manager and explained to him that I was giving him one last chance to meet the performance expectations of an executive in this organization. A few weeks ago, I learned of other instances of inappropriate and unprofessional comments to or about women by Dr. Schlenker. I met with him last week and discussed these matters. He admitted making these comments. Finding no justifiable explanation for his conduct, I requested his resignation.  He refused to resign and I terminated him. His ongoing public comments confirm that this is the right decision.

The City’s core values include teamwork, integrity and professionalism, and unfortunately, Dr. Schlenker did not live up to these values.
Here is Schlenker's response:
 Dr. Thomas Schlenker's statement:

By any objective measure Metro Health has greatly expanded it’s scope, impact and value to the health of the people of San Antonio and Bexar County over the past four years.  I have been aggressive because I see a great need.  San Antonio’s population is unfortunately often noted as among the least healthy in the country.

Based on my concern to make real progress, I have regularly pushed my staff and myself to go above and beyond what we might think ourselves capable. Sugary beverages was not the only point of contention between Mrs. Sculley and myself but it was the most persistent and profound.  It was perceived by Mrs. Sculley that my outspoken linkage of sugary beverages to obesity and diabetes was hindering her efforts to solicit large donations from the soda industry. She told me this herself. I heard her but was not willing to back off.

At Metro Health, the fight against obesity and on many other fronts, we have had tremendous success and many men and women of Metro Health have flourished under my leadership.   But clearly, I have pushed the department farther and faster than manager Sculley would tolerate.  She demanded that I sign a three page single spaced letter of resignation that had been written for me that I was not permitted to read  with the inducement of severance pay. I refused.

The three remarks that she had collected going back two years and gives as evidence for my immediate dismissal were embellished and taken out of context. All were from private conversations I had with Metro Health staff, within the work place. None were made in anger or malice, rather they were friendly remarks made in good will. Mrs. Sculley portrayed them as complaints made against me, but the first I heard of them was last Wednesday.

If they were truly complaints lodged with COSA Human Resources, as per policy, I should have been notified in a timely manner, not two years later, and given a chance to apologize if warranted. I suspect that these remarks dredged up from the past were the result of a fishing expedition and not complaints filed with COSA HR. I try to make my workplace conversation with men and women open, friendly, some times fun and sometimes funny.

I certainly do misstep from time to time, but my goal is to treat everyone with respect and courtesy without regard to station, race/ethnicity or gender.  I believe Metro Health has the most diverse staff, leadership and management team in the city. I have worked hard to make it so.

No comments: