Four employees at the Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office, including a supervisor, are on paid administrative leave amid an investigation into allegations of sexism and racism.
The probe was launched this month by county human resources officials who seized computers and other records from the office. It stems from a July 18 email from an employee who alleged a longstanding culture of racism and sexism in the office.
Among the allegations: open displays of sexually-explicit photographs, pornographic screensavers on county computers, and disparaging remarks by employees about African Americans.
The culture was encouraged by supervisors, claimed the employee’s email, which further alleged others who previously complained about the office culture were harassed until they quit, or were fired.
“Whenever we get an allegation of any sort, we take it seriously and we investigate fully,” said Andrew McKinnon, Macomb County’s director of human resources. “The types of things being alleged are unacceptable.”
The four employees on Wednesday attended a “Loudermill hearing,” which is required for public employees facing discipline. The hearings allow employees to present their side before discipline is handed out.
McKinnon also said a disciplinary decision was made Thursday afternoon about some of the employees who are on leave, but declined to identify what action was taken.
“I don’t know if all the employees have been notified yet, and I don’t think it would be right for them to read about our decision in the newspaper,” he said.
The suspensions have put a strain on the office, with two of its three morgue technicians, one of five investigators, and the director of operations all out of commission.
Morgue technicians prepare bodies for autopsies and assist pathologists during the procedures, while investigators’ responsibilities including going to scenes to determine if foul play was involved in a death.
McKinnon said while the Medical Examiner’s Office continues to perform autopsies and has not yet seen a significant case backup, officials have asked Oakland County for manpower assistance while the employees are out.
“We have reached out to Oakland County to see if we can get some assistance at a time when we’re in need,” McKinnon said. “We’re also looking to hire permanent staff; even without the administrative leaves, there was a need for staff over there, morgue techs in particular.”
Macomb County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz declined to comment Thursday.
In 2018, the most recent year for which data are available, the Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office investigated 3,061 deaths, performed 531 complete autopsies, 121 external examinations and 39 limited autopsies. The office also performed 681 toxicology assessments.
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