- Associated Press - Monday, December 14, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A state agency is being sued by a former investigator who says she was fired for being a whistleblower.

Regina D. Reynolds, a former investigator for the state Medical Examiner’s Office, filed the lawsuit last week in Kanawha County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health fired Reynolds after she refused to burn human remains to conceal that the medical examiner’s office mishandled them, The Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/1lHXrlG) reported.

DHHR spokesman Toby Wagoner told the newspaper that the office doesn’t comment on pending litigation or personnel issues.

Reynolds’ lawsuit said she found a man’s skeletal remains in a box in a DHHR evidence room last year. Reynolds recognized the remains from a 2010 case and found the case file. Records indicated the remains, identified in the lawsuit as “D.H.,” had been returned to the man’s family and buried at the West Virginia National Cemetery in Grafton.

“This information was highly concerning to Ms. Reynolds because this meant that either D.H. had not actually been buried in the West Virginia National Cemetery and the grave bearing his name is empty, or another person is buried in the grave bearing D.H.’s name,” the lawsuit states.

Don Raynes, the acting chief medical examiner, ordered Reynolds to burn the remains after she notified him about her discovery. She refused and contacted her immediate supervisor, and then contacted the Office of the Inspector General, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, Raynes confronted Reynolds two days after she met with representatives of the Office of the Inspector General on May 1. On May 5, Reynolds was asked to attend a conference with representatives from the DHHR and the Office of the Inspector General over allegations that she had mishandled evidence. She was suspended without pay several days later, and was fired on July 1.

Reynolds had worked since 2000 as a medicolegal investigator. Her job consisted of conducting fingerprinting, photography, assisting the forensic anthropologist employed with the Smithsonian Institution and responding to crime scenes and disasters, according to the lawsuit. She also served as a liaison between the pathologist, law enforcement and county medical examiners.

Reynolds’ lawsuit seeks compensation under the state whistleblower act for damages for indignity, embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress. She does not want her job back, the lawsuit said.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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