JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News has uncovered some major allegations inside the Medical Examiners Office.
They all center on Dr. Valerie Rao. She was appointed by the governor in 2011. But in a letter we obtained from the Mayor's Office to the state Medical Examiners Commission, the city claims employees have seen Rao using the autopsy sink to wash her feet, use her bare hands to perform procedures, even demand unnecessary autopsies to raise the bottom line.
The accusations don't stop there.
"We want the best ME possible and we've received numerous indications of issues," said the mayor's spokesman, Dave Decamp.
Decamp says there are complaints like from employees, claiming bullying and a hostile environment. "We are taking steps to improve the office, from structure to improving function," said Decamp.
But Rao is an employee of the state, not the city of Jacksonville. We called the Governor's Office and the state commission to get some answers.
The chairman of the commission, Dr. Bruce Hyma, told us he disagrees with the city. Hyma told us by phone Rao is competent to do the job.
But we also found out the Mayor's Office isn't the only one with concerns. Ten years ago, this same state commission decided not to send Dr. Rao's name to the governor for re-appointment for ME in another district. According to published reports, people told the board Rao contaminated crime scenes.
We took the documents to a local attorney. She says this could have major implications for the state. "Anyone whose had testimony by her, a conviction, has legal grounds to file a motion to get a trial. It's going to cost taxpayers greatly," said attorney Whitney Lonker.
Rao did not want to talk with us when we saw her Monday. The Mayor's Office says it's spending $1.7 million in upgrades for the building. We've also learned the city's ethics commission recommended ethics training for the entire office after a separate complaint against another employee.
It is up to the governor to decide whether to re-appoint Rao as medical examiner. There is no timeline on when that might happen.