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Personnel records detail history prior to Metro Health director's firing

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SAN ANTONIO – Records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show that an assistant city manager "counseled Dr. (Thomas) Schlenker about his insubordinate behavior when asked to rescind an op-ed he had not reviewed with her” in January 2014.

Also in notes of the city’s human resources director in April 2014 were four similar issues involving published editorial pieces that Schlenker wrote or contributed to and did not have prior approval.

Schlenker claims he did notify his supervisors and get approval for each op-ed he authored or was involved in.

“I tried to play by the rules. The rules changed frequently in terms of prior notification and prior approval. And they were just about soda and obesity,” Schlenker said of the op-ed pieces. “They were also about the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid 1115 waiver.”

City Manager Sheryl Sculley fired Schlenker on July 23, saying he mistreated women in the workplace.

Schlenker maintains he was fired for his outspoken stance against soda consumption and its link to obesity.

He believes his public opinions threatened a lucrative relationship between the city and soda companies.

In July 2014, records of Schlenker's alleged mistreatment of female employees began to be noted.

Claims include cutting off communication with an employee "because she contradicted him in public" and rating female employees lower than their male counterparts.

He allegedly referred to a corporate leader as a "dumb blonde with a lot of red lipstick” and commented on the breasts of a woman featured in a city ad campaign.

Schlenker said those comments were taken out of context.

“They occurred six months and two years before that date,” Schlenker said, after claiming he did not hear about complaints regarding any comments he made until the day he was fired. “And during that entire period, I had never been noted that anyone was offended."

Schlenker maintains he was never derogatory toward women in the workplace nor discriminated against them.

“The real issue is almost $4 million that big soda has channeled to city government,” Schlenker said.

Sculley was unavailable for an interview Thursday but told KSAT 12 she stands by her reason for firing Schlenker and his termination had nothing to do with his stance on soda.


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