Records: Doctor who inspected RI Medical Examiners Office also worked for state

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A doctor under investigation in Delaware was paid $188,565 over three years by the state of Rhode Island to perform autopsies, work on call and make crime scene visits, according to financial documents.

Target 12 has also learned Dr. Richard Callery signed on to become a contract pathologist for the Rhode Island Department of Health in August 2008, one month before performing an independent inspection of the medical examiners office as part of a national accreditation process.

Denise McNally, the Executive Director of the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) confirmed Callery performed the inspection that helped earn the state its accreditation.

In 2005, state lawmakers approved legislation that required the medical examiners office to become accredited in the wake of the Station Nightclub Fire that killed 100 people.

In an email. McNally said NAME is aware Callery – who is the chief medical examiner in Delaware – consults across the country, but they “do not have intimate knowledge of all of his work.”

“NAME has a review process with a second inspector, then the chairman and members of the Inspection and Accreditation committee,” McNally said in the email. “The office also has the right to recuse an inspector and NAME excludes inspectors if they have worked in an office recently.”

It is unclear if NAME was aware that Callery had signed on to work for Rhode Island according to current president Dr. Greg Davis, a chief medical examiner in Alabama.

“In general you don’t have people who work for an office inspecting that office,” Davis said adding he is not trained in the inspection process for NAME.

James Palmer, a spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Health denied Target 12’s request to interview the director – Dr. Michael Fine – but said Callery’s hiring predates the current administration.

“The current director and the current medical examiner would have objected to that if they were here at the time,” Palmer said.

According to financial records obtained by Target 12 through a public records request, Callery was paid $1,100 per autopsy, $300 a day for being on call, $400 for crime scene visits, $300 for “external reviews” and other compensation for reviewing paperwork. The agreement was supposed to continue until 2012 but it was ended in 2011.

While Palmer said Callery’s hire was before the current health department director’s arrival, records show Fine – as interim director signed off on an invoice authorizing payment to Callery.

Since 2008 records show Callery has performed 173 autopsies for Rhode Island, according to Palmer. Callery peaked with 76 autopsies or examinations in 2010.

Callery testified against the Rhode Island prosecutors office while working as a contract medical examiner for the state, according to Amy Kempe a spokesperson for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

Convicted felon Rocco D’Alessio was seeking freedom from prison for a 2000 shaken baby case, according to Kempe and used Callery to poke holes in an autopsy report by the Rhode Island Medical Examiner’s Office.

“The prosecutor who was handling the case informed the medical examiners’ office that Dr. Callery was testifying for the defense while also serving on the list of contract medical examiner’s for the Department of Health,” Kempe said. “The [Attorney General’s] office did not require or demand action, he was merely informing the medical examiner’s office.”

Callery’s testimony happened in July 2011, the same month that Rhode Island’s relationship ended with the Delaware pathologist.

Palmer said the reason they parted ways with Callery was because they were seeking pathologists who live closer to Rhode Island.

As Target 12 previously reported, Callery has been suspended with pay from his job as chief medical examiner in Delaware “pending completion of an internal human resources investigation” according to a statement from the Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf.

“The suspension was effective on February 25, 2014, and will continue until the investigation is complete,” Landgraf said in the statement. Officials say the probe centers around the state’s drug lab, which Callery oversees.

Callery is also being investigated for his work outside his duties as chief medical examiner, according to a court document obtained by the The News Journal of Delaware.

The filing reveals Callery was set to testify in a murder trial but it had to be delayed because of “criminal investigations pertaining to allegations that he used state resources to conduct private business.”

Target 12 has been unable to reach Callery for comment.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @white_tim

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