Renee Coleman-Mitchell

Former DPH Commissioner Alleges Discrimination: Lawsuit

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Renée Coleman-Mitchell, the former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, is suing her former employer for alleged violations of her civil rights.

Coleman-Mitchell was fired from her position as commissioner in May 2020.

A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut Monday alleges Coleman-Mitchell brought her concerns about COVID-19 to Gov. Ned Lamont during the first week of March 2020.

The complaint states, “Plaintiff began to sound the alarm and communicated her concerns directly to Governor Ned Lamont, advising him that there was a need to move swiftly in the protection of nursing home residents, particularly the visitor restrictions, and testing staff of nursing home residents. Plaintiff’s warnings were met with stiff opposition by Governor Lamont and his administration, and they refused to heed Plaintiff’s advice.”

The complaint details how Coleman-Mitchell was then removed from all COVID-19 strategy meetings and no longer allowed to take part in the governor’s press briefings.

The complaint states Coleman-Mitchell’s team was dismantled by the governor’s Chief Operating Officer and Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services Josh Geballe, who was tasked with leading the state’s COVID response instead of Coleman-Mitchell.

In the lawsuit, Coleman-Mitchell claims after she was terminated, Lamont “…publicly insinuated failure by her as the Commissioner of Public Health to the disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially that of the thousands of elderly nursing home illnesses and deaths that needlessly occurred as a result of Governor Lamont's failure to act in a timely manner.”

“There were many things that were done that usurped my authority as a public health commissioner that ultimately resulted in many mishaps in addressing COVID-19 early on in the state of Connecticut," Coleman-Mitchell said.

“Those screams, those yells, those alarms were not heard and not adhered to,” she said about alerting the governor’s administration about her concerns to move fast to protect nursing home residents at the start of the pandemic.

The complaint also alleges that Lamont promised Coleman-Mitchell one year of severance pay and benefits and a letter of reference, which she has yet to receive. She is seeking compensatory damages.

“I want to correct the narrative. I want to be able to go back to my livelihood," Coleman-Mitchell said.

She hasn’t been able to get a full-time job since she says blame was wrongly pointed her way. And, she says she wasn’t able to pay for her son’s last semester of college because she lost her job.

"Well, it's a pending legal action. It'll be sorted out," Lamont said Tuesday. "So, I think I should probably leave it at that."

“A pandemic that we haven't experienced in over 100 years, I get it. We all needed to have all hands-on deck and work together. The unfortunate thing is that I was never included," Coleman-Mitchell said.

Lamont said he thinks Connecticut has the most diverse administration in its history and he's proud of that.

At an unrelated bill signing on Tuesday, Lamont said, “I think you know we have the most diverse administration in the history of the state. And I’m not going to allow any type of discrimination to happen on my watch.”

Lamont also added, "Look, I appointed the very best people I could to this administration. I think now we’ve got to let the court play this out. There are a lot of lawsuits in and around government."

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