After months of overseeing a series of controversial moves at the FDA press office,Beth Martino has resigned to take a job with the American Health Care Association as a public affairs advisor. Her departure caps a brief, but tumultuous reign for the 31-year-old former press aide to Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor who is now Department of Human Health & Services secretary.
As much as she attempted to manage the news, Martino succeeded in making news herself. In December, her office purged a few senior specialists who are 50 years and older. Three staffers were let go and a fourth, career employee Donna Avallone, 62, was allegedly stripped of her title and reassigned by Carl Chitwood, a 37-year-old Martino appointee, although he later denied forcing anyone out of a job (back story).
Then, the FDA media office was chastised by the Association of Health Care Journalists for issuing an embargo that barred journalists from seeking expert comment prior to when the embargo lifted, a move the group decried as running contrary to the White House policy on transparency and throttling the ability to scrutinize and understand taxpayer-funded actions (see this).
More recently, the FDA Inspector General began investigating hiring practices after Chitwood, the recently appointed director of web communications, resigned amid allegations that he hired a former colleague for an FDA job, even though other individuals were better qualified for the position (read here). It is unclear if the probe will continue now that both Martino and Chitwood are gone.
In discussing her new job, Martino tells PR Week that "I think it'll be a good opportunity for me to capitalize on some of the public health work that I've done at the FDA, and bring to bare (sic) some of the knowledge. Also, I'm looking forward to joining the team over there and working on some of the projects they have coming up." Her replacement, by the way, is Meghan Scott, who is currently with the press office.
Presumbly, the American Health Care Association is ready for the brand of news management Martino offers. The AHCA is run by another former Kansas governor, Mark Parkinson, and Martino had worked for him as well.
Hat tip to AssurX