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Investigators claim 'lack of trust' in medical examiner's office

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 11:47 p.m.

Investigators in the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office claim there is overtime abuse, a lack of training opportunities and inefficient building security at the Strip District office in a letter sent to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“There is an environment that consists of a lack of trust between operations/investigations and management,” said the letter signed by 11 forensic investigators. “This lack of trust comes from a long history of preferential treatment, discrimination, negligence and complete disregard for the citizens of Allegheny County.”

Allegheny County's medical examiner, Dr. Karl Williams, did not return calls seeking comment. County spokeswoman Amie Downs said the executive office received the letter on Monday and referred it to County Manager William McKain for review. He did not return a message.

“He's going to look at the issues and determine if there's something that needs to be done,” Downs said.

Forensic investigators remove and transport human remains, notify family members of a death, retrieve medical records and personal effects of the deceased and investigate deaths. The investigators were “continually denied the opportunity” to become certified through the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, in part because management lost the application for the test the board offers, the letter states.

The letter details incidents, including a death investigation in McKees Rocks, in which lab personnel from the Mobile Crime Unit earned what investigators said is unnecessary overtime by photographing scenes. Forensic investigators can photograph scenes, which would free the lab personnel to do other work, said Kelly Vay, a forensic investigator speaking on behalf of those who signed the letter.

“Hopefully, they can come in and see the misuse of taxpayers' money, and revamp how things are set up,” Vay said.

The letter highlighted safety issues for employees, including malfunctioning door locks, stolen property and assaults outside the building.

“There has to be some sort of accountability,” Vay said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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