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State epidemiologist, head of immunization out at Oklahoma Health Department

Kristy Bradley

Kristy Bradley

Oklahoma City — Oklahoma's state epidemiologist said she was forced out of the Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday after more than 20 years of service.

Kristy Bradley signed a form letter announcing her resignation from the Health Department after crossing out the phrase attesting that she was leaving “without duress or coercion.”

“I have faithfully served the citizens of Oklahoma for over 22 years and no cause was provided to me today in requesting my resignation,” Bradley wrote below her signature. “Therefore, I do so under duress and in lieu of termination.”

Another form, also dated Tuesday, showed Lori Linstead, the director of the Health Department's immunization service, refused to sign a resignation letter.

Tom Bates, interim commissioner of the Health Department, said it had conducted a “thorough review of supervisory conduct” before asking for the resignations of Bradley and Linstead. The department declined to provide more context.

“Every person in our organization is accountable for the job they perform,” Bates said in a written statement. “We have faced many issues over the past few months and continue to make tough decisions that are important to moving this agency forward.”

It wasn't clear on Tuesday whether the departures of Bradley and Linstead were connected to the upheaval at the department over the past year.

In October 2017, Commissioner Terry Cline and several of his top deputies resigned after announcing the department faced a major financial shortfall. An auditor's report, released this spring, concluded the shortfall only existed on paper, as a result of poor record-keeping surrounding “slush funds.”

Bradley's name appears a few times in emails where top officials tried to manage the financial mess, but no one has publicly accused her of mismanagement. Linstead's name wasn't mentioned in any publicly available documents surrounding the issue. Neither appeared to have been involved in subsequent controversies at the Health Department, such as layoffs under Interim Commissioner Preston Doerflinger or efforts to amend medical marijuana regulations.

Of six director-level positions in the department's prevention and preparedness services divisions, three have now turned over since mid-October. One remains vacant. The first position that turned over was the director of HIV and sexually transmitted disease services, when Jan Fox transferred to another job within the Health Department.

Bradley had been the state epidemiologist and deputy commissioner in charge of prevention and preparedness since 2005, overseeing disease surveillance and the response to outbreaks. She couldn't be reached for comment.

Linstead took on her current job in 2013, after working for more than 20 years at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. She declined comment when reached by phone.

The department announced Tuesday that it would appoint Laurence Burnsed as interim state epidemiologist and deputy commissioner for prevention and preparedness services. Burnsed is administrative program manager for the communicable disease division.

Keith Reed, deputy commissioner for community health services, and Gunnar McFadden, assistant deputy commissioner for community health services, will share responsibility for the immunization service for now. Both currently oversee the county health departments.

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›