- Associated Press - Friday, July 11, 2014

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware’s chief medical examiner has been fired on misconduct charges amid a scandal that has rocked the court system and he faces a criminal investigation involving misuse of state resources, state officials disclosed Friday.

Dr. Richard Callery was informed of his termination in a letter dated July 4, the effective date of a new law that abolished his office and replaced it with a new division of forensic sciences.

The new law was prompted by an ongoing scandal and criminal investigation involving possible evidence tampering and theft at the state drug-testing lab, which was part of the medical examiner’s office. Two employees of the office have been arrested, and the scandal has caused upheaval within the courts, with prosecutors dismissing or reducing charges in scores of drug cases.

The scandal broke shortly after Department of Health and Social Services officials learned of allegations that Callery was misusing state resources to perform private work.

“As a result of the significant extent of your misconduct, the state has sustained incalculable damage and incurred tremendous costs,” Safety and Homeland Security Lewis Schiliro wrote in the letter to Callery.

The letter was co-signed by Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf, whose department formerly oversaw the medical examiner’s office. The new forensic sciences division will under the purview of Schiliro’s law enforcement agency.

Callery did not immediately return a telephone message left at his home Friday.

Also Friday, officials released a 27-page consultant’s report outlining problems within the medical examiner’s office and recommendations to address them and to end “a culture of indifference and incivility.”

According to Landgraf, an administrative investigation led by the Office of Management and Budget provided substantial evidence that Callery misused state resources, violated the state code of conduct, and neglected his duties while performing private work.

“The nature of these violations appears to be egregious, profound and injurious to the state of Delaware,” she wrote in a June 30 letter to Schiliro.

Landgraf noted that in a single month, Callery appeared to have sent more than 700 emails and attachments related to his private work using his state email account. He also apparently served as a private expert in at least seven court cases that were being handled by the medical examiner’s office, in violation of the state prohibition against conflicts of interest, Landgraf wrote.

Meanwhile, the investigation into alleged evidence tampering continues.

The state public defender’s office has filed hundreds of motions seeking to have drug convictions overturned because of problems at the lab dating to 2010.

A Superior Court judge this week began presiding over a hearing involving two defendants challenging drug evidence that passed through the medical examiner’s drug lab before it was shut down in February. The judge’s ruling in the case is expected to serve as a template for how similar challenges should proceed.

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