Second employee suspended in ME probe

Department heads update legislators
April 30, 2014

A second employee has been suspended as a result of an investigation into drug tampering at the state medical examiner's office, said Rita Landgraf, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

James Woodson, an evidence specialist, has been suspended with pay and a human resources investigation is underway, Landgraf said. No further details are available, she said.

Landgraf and Lewis D. Schiliro, secretary of Delaware's Department of Safety and Homeland Security, briefed a public safety committee at Legislative Hall April 30 on the investigation started after it was discovered drug evidence from the Controlled Substance Lab in the medical examiner's office was missing or had been tampered with.

Chief Medical Examiner Richard Callery has been suspended from his $198,000-a-year job and remains suspended with pay.

Landgraf said Callery was appointed to his position for 10-year terms in 1997, 2007 and his current term does not expire until 2017.

"At no point during the investigation will his term expire," she said.

A state statute precludes her from terminating the chief medical examiner until the state can prove "for cause," she said.

Landgraf said Callery has retained counsel; the state also has retained private counsel in the human resources investigation against Callery, said DHSS Director of Communications Jill Fredel.

Landgraf told legislators that the state statute should be changed so that she can discipline or terminate the chief medical examiner the same way she should would discipline a department director.

Schiliro said the structure of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner should be changed.

"I don't think we can reopen under the current structure," he said.