Mar 11, 2022 - Politics

DA investigation: Fired Tennessee vaccine chief didn't buy muzzle

Photo: Stephanie Amador/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

A new investigation found Tennessee's former vaccine chief, Michelle Fiscus, did not send a dog muzzle to herself, according to a report from Nashville prosecutors first obtained by WSMV.

Driving the news: The memo criticized a 2021 state investigation that stated the muzzle was purchased with Fiscus' credit card.

  • The prosecutor's report said the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security's "cursory inquiry" failed to take additional steps to determine who was behind the purchase made on a "duplicate Amazon account" set up in Fiscus' name.
  • Upon further investigation, the district attorney's office determined "it is evident that Dr. Michelle Fiscus' personal identifying information was compromised, exposed, and used by unknown actors."
  • There was no evidence Fiscus was involved, according to the report.

Why it matters: This is the latest development in a long-running controversy surrounding Fiscus, who was fired last year amid criticism from Republican lawmakers who were upset about health department efforts to convince teenagers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Fiscus said someone sent the muzzle during her last days on the job and that she interpreted it as a threat.
  • She was fiercely critical of the state's initial investigation into the matter, which she called "shoddy." She denied she bought the muzzle and requested the local investigation.

What she's saying: Fiscus told Axios she's had to wait "seven long months for the truth to be reported," and she welcomes "additional inquiry into the sender's identity."

  • "The TN Department of Safety's initial report intimated I sent this muzzle to myself and released it to the press without my knowledge, causing me substantial professional and personal damage," Fiscus said in a statement.
  • "I should not have had to pursue an outside investigation on my own, but I am grateful to Nashville Metro Police and the Davidson County District Attorney for their thorough investigation."

State of play: Nashville investigators researched the out-of-state IP address and phone number linked with the muzzle order and the duplicate Amazon account.

  • They interviewed people associated with the IP address and phone number, in Texas and Pennsylvania, but were not able to establish a connection between them and "anyone living or working in the State of Tennessee."
  • The DA's report did not rule out a political motivation for the muzzle order, but stated "no specific actor can be identified at this time."

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