Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Brenda Fitzgerald has announced her resignation Wednesday, just days after it was reported she bought stocks in the tobacco industry while leading the federal agency.
According to Politico, Fitzgerald — who was named to the director position in July 2017 — had purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 in Japan Tobacco. She also purchased stock in several health-care companies, including Humana and Merck. A Health and Human Services official told The Hill that the stocks were handled and sold by Fitzgerald’s financial manager.
The stock purchase presented a concerning conflict of interest, considering the CDC’s mission includes convincing smokers to quit and preventing children from accessing tobacco and becoming addicted.
“This morning Secretary [Alex] Azar accepted Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement, confirming Fitzgerald’s resignation. “Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director. Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 31, 2018
According to The Hill, Fitzgerald’s short time in the director role was marred by conflict of interest issues, as her inability to divest from her many stock holdings required her recusal from CDC duties, including testifying before Congress on various matters.
Fitzgerald, a former public health department head in Georgia, had been appointed by former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — a former Georgia lawmaker — to lead the CDC. Price, of course, resigned in September due to controversy over his excessive use of hiring private jets for official travel, which cost taxpayers at least $1 million.