Panel did not recommend appointment of Dr. Taylor as SCHD head, memo says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 has obtained an official internal memo that shows an Interview Panel for the Director of the Shelby County Health Services Division did not recommend either Dr. Michelle Taylor or Mr. Derrick Neal for the position.

Despite the panel’s assessment, Taylor is Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’ pick to be the next director. He announced her nomination last week.

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The three-page memo dated May 19, 2021, stated that the interview panel considered SCHD’s current state of affairs, including its $102M operating budget and over 100 vacancies that need filling as well as the candidates themselves.

Assessments from the interview panel noted the limited experience of both Mr. Neal and Dr. Taylor, which included “managing a division as large as the SCHD, overseeing a robust grant and contract portfolio, and implementing the requisite change management required to improve the operational and programmatic functionality of the SCHD.”

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The memo provided a summary of each candidate’s presentation and observations made by a focus group that observed the presentations.

“While it appears that focus group participants favored Dr. Taylor as the finalist, the interview panel expressed strong concerns” and recommended identifying additional funding for the position’s salary to improve recruitment of more qualified candidates.

Dr. Taylor and Mayor Harris appeared before Shelby County Commissioner Wednesday and a final vote on whether to approve Dr. Taylor as the new director is scheduled for Monday, July 26.

FOX13 tried to reach Mayor Harris for comment about the memo, but we have not heard back from him yet.

On Thursday, the Shelby County Commission Black Caucus released the following staement:

The Shelby County Commission Black Caucus extends support to Dr. Michelle Taylor leading up to the confirmation vote on Monday, July 26. The leaking of an internal HR memo was highly unprofessional and purposely released to call into question the leadership of Mayor Lee Harris. Dr. Taylor is now caught in the middle of a political play distracting from the fact that she brings with her a list of achievements that make her more than qualified for this position. The memo refers to Dr. Taylor as “articulate” and questions her ability to manage a team. Dr. Taylor managed medical teams for the United States Office of the Air National Guard Surgeon General. Her experience as a manager of teams and her intelligence is without question. The racial undertones of this memo plus the use of it to attack Dr. Taylor are both reprehensible. While the Black Caucus cannot discuss votes, the majority of its members agree that the conversation the last day detracts from the significant achievements of Dr. Taylor. We extend our support to her and are grateful she has chosen to bring her talents back home to Memphis.

Make sure to check back for updates on this developing story.