Nashville health director under Human Resources investigation

Dr. Michael Caldwell is subject to multiple human resources complaints

By: and - November 18, 2020 6:00 pm
Metro Nashville Health Department and Lentz Clinic (Photo: Metro Health, Facebook)

Metro Nashville Health Department and Lentz Clinic (Photo: Metro Health, Facebook)

Metro Department of Public Health Director Dr. Michael Caldwell is the subject of multiple human resources complaints, which are currently under investigation.

Complaints to the Metro Human Resources Department are not a public record until an investigation is completed. Multiple sources told the Tennessee Lookout the complaints are serious in nature. 

Caldwell could not immediately be reached for comment through a department spokesman. Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s spokeswoman Katie Lentile referred questions to the city’s HR department.

Dr. Michael Caldwell, director of Metro Public Health Department (Photo: LinkedIn)

HR has received complaints regarding Dr. Caldwell, but these complaints are currently under investigation and we do not share information during an active investigation,” HR Director Shannon Hall said. “We can share once the investigative process has completed.”

The human resources complaints were initially sent to Dr. Alex Jahangir, chairman of the health board.

“As board chair, I take any concerns brought to me very seriously and forward serious concerns to HR and an investigation is being taken up,” Jahangir said. “I don’t take anything lightly that doesn’t need to be taken lightly.”

Jahangir said the board has not yet taken the matter up and wouldn’t until the HR investigation process played out. He said he can’t comment on the nature of the complaints.

“I think every process needs the due diligence and needs to be done appropriately in keeping the respect and expectations that anyone would have,” Jahangir said. “I think that’s really critical to respect the process.”

Caldwell was thrown into the fire of the international COVID-19 pandemic, having been confirmed to the post by Metro Council just days before the seriousness of the situation became clear.

Caldwell, who has a long resume of working for public health departments and collaborating with them as an executive with pharmaceutical companies, found himself in the news quickly. 

He soon entered into a controversial agreement with local law enforcement and other first responders to share the names and home addresses of individuals who tested positive for the virus. 

Caldwell said at the time the practice of sharing information would help keep police officers and ambulance workers protected, and therefore curb the spread of the virus. 

But Metro Public Health Board members said they were “blindsided” by his decision and put a temporary halt to the policy in order to contract with a technology company that could facilitate the sharing of data without putting individuals’ privacy at risk. 

Caldwell, through a spokesman after publication of this story, disputed the characterization from board members that they were taken by surprise by his decision to share data, sending audio and minutes from an April 7 board meeting. At the end of that meeting Dr. Stephanie Bailey, a former health department director who aids Caldwell, said the health department had shared information with police on the locations of infected residents.

Board members also criticized Caldwell after hearing from staff he had been absent from the department for  “long stretches of time” and neglected routine duties in his early months on the job.

Caldwell pushed back on those criticisms, saying he had spent time engaging in the community. He told board members he was “amazed at the job I am doing.”

Caldwell also championed the health department partnering with a local lab to conduct COVID-19 vaccine research. The department collaborated with Clinical Research Associates on multiple vaccine research trials.


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Nate Rau
Nate Rau

Nate Rau has a granular knowledge of Nashville’s government and power brokers, having spent more than a decade with the Tennessean, navigating the ins and outs of government deals as an investigative reporter. During his career at The Tennessean and The City Paper, he covered the music industry and Metro government and won praise for hard-hitting series on concussions in youth sports and deaths at a Tennessee drug rehabilitation center. In a state of Titans and Vols fans, Nate is an unabashed Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs fan.

Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.