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Former MetroHealth Director Claims Termination Was Over Disagreement With City Manager

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Dr. Schlenker received this letter from Assistant City Manager Erik Walsh the day he was let go.

The City of San Antonio has terminated the director of MetroHealth citing personnel issues. But Dr. Thomas Schlenker believes the dismissal is related to his campaign against sugary drinks.


Dr. Schlenker had been the director of the city’s MetroHealth department for four years when he was told to leave. That was last Wednesday when a routine weekly meeting led to his firing. He says he was called into City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s office.


Schlenker says Sculley cited three comments he made to employees over the last several years and called them offensive. “Two of them happened about six months ago and one was two years ago,  but Wednesday was the first time I had ever heard that anyone had been offended,” Schlenker said.


Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Dr. Thomas Schlenker began with MetroHealth in 2011 after being recruited by the City of San Antonio from a similar job in Madison, Wisconsin. He plans to remain in San Antonio with his wife.

  Schlenker wouldn’t give details about the comments but acknowledges they were ill advised. However, the former health director believes another issue caused his dismissal.


Over the past two years Schlenker has attempted to launch a campaign to highlight the negative health effects of heavy soda consumption. He says Sculley didn’t like that.


“She just would not accept the fact that I continued to speak out about that while at the same time she was trying to solicit money from Coca-Cola and other big soda entities for projects in San Antonio,” he said. “She told me that was interfering with her efforts.”


Schlenker believes his dismissal had been planned for several months. A city spokesperson said the termination was not related to the sugary beverages debate, but to “personnel issues” she did not describe. The city plans to do a nationwide search for a new health director.  It has placed MetroHealth employee Dr. Vincent Nathan in the position for now.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules