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Former Shelby Co. Health Dept. Chief of Nursing sues county over termination for vaccine waste

Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 12:03 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 11, 2022 at 12:06 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Former Shelby County Health Department Nursing Director, Dr. Judy Martin is suing the county over termination during the state investigation into COVID-19 vaccine waste.

Nearly a year after the Tennessee Department of Health began an investigation into expired COVID-19 vaccine doses in Shelby County, the fallout is continuing

Dr. Judy Martin was in charge of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and she says Shelby County and Mayor Lee Harris defamed her character in conjunction with her termination.

Martin served as Shelby County Health Department’s Director of Nursing and Immunizations. Now, she is seeking compensation from Shelby County for damages to her reputation and ability to get a new job in her professional field.

In February 2021 Shelby County said Martin retired following the state investigation into vaccine handling at the Department, but in a federal lawsuit Martin says she was terminated, and never given a chance to clear her name.

Martin said she had been with the Shelby County Health Department for 18 years before her termination on February 23, 2021. In 2020, she was tasked with leading the local COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

In February 2021 the Tennessee Department of Health began an investigation into thousands of vaccine doses left to expire.

The lawsuit says on February 11, 2021 Martin conducted an unannounced inspection of the pharmacy where the vaccine doses were stored and found unreported, expired vaccine doses. The lawsuit says Martin immediately reported them to then county health director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.

The lawsuit says Martin worked with the state during its investigation.

But on February 23, 2021 leading representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Shelby County Health Department and Human Resources told Martin her employment was being terminated. The lawsuit says Martin chose to retire to keep 18 years of pension benefits.

The lawsuit says on the same day as Martin’s termination Mayor Harris told media about the revelation that false information was given to TDH by a local vaccine site manager.

The lawsuit alleges making those comments on the day of her termination led the public to believe Martin gave the false information, which she denies she ever did in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says in March 2021 Martin requested to clear her name with her former employer, but that request was denied.

Martin is looking for compensation for damages to her future employment, her reputation and emotional distress. The amount is something she and her lawyers want determined during a trial.

We’ve reached out to those parties involved.

The Tennessee Department of Health had no comment, and the Shelby County Health Department says it does not comment on personnel or litigation matters.

Shelby County and Mayor Lee Harris’ Office is also not commenting on pending litigation. Martin’s lawyers were unavailable for an interview on Friday.

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