Former medical examiner’s office employees not surprised by investigations into office
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - It was standing room only at the Lubbock County Commissioner’s meeting Monday morning.
Former county employees of the medical examiner’s office filled the front row.
Commissioners were scheduled to review the agreement with the National Autopsy Assay Group Pathology Labs (NAAG) during the meeting, but they voted to table the item.
The former employees, however, said they were not ready to table anything.
“It was my dream job,” said Kala Schoenhals.
Schoenhals said she started working at the medical examiner’s office in May 2014 as a part-time death investigator.
Just months later, in September of 2014, she said she was offered the full-time senior forensic position.
In June 2016, Schoenhals said she was promoted to Senior Investigator.
That summer, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Sridhar Natarajan retired, and the county hired Dr. Sam Andrews with the National Autopsy Assay Group Pathology Labs to run the office.
Schoenhals said she received a phone call from a county employee during this time of transition thanking her for her work and telling her how much the county appreciated her.
On Wednesday, August 29, 2018 Schoenhals said Andrews told her she was a vital player and he hoped she would stay on through the changes.
Days after that conversation, on August 31st, Schoenhals said she was on vacation and received a text from a NAAG employee.
That text contained a photo of a letter of her termination, stating her position had been eliminated.
"No phone call, no advice on unemployment, no explanation, just ‘be advised effective immediately’ by a text.
Schoenhals said she texted Andrews to find out what was going on.
“I texted him and I was like, ‘I hope you can understand my concern and my confusion as to what is happening’ and he said he couldn’t talk regarding the subject,” Schoenhals said.
Schoenhals said she later found out a NAAG employee took her position.
Meanwhile, another county employee said he was notified that his position had also been eliminated.
Frank Garcia said he had worked for the county for about a year and seven months when a NAAG employee and Lubbock County Human Resources Officer Greg George walked him into an office and told him his position had been eliminated.
“My letter stated that my work had reached the end of its contract, which I was not under the understanding that my work was contractual," Garcia said.
“However a couple of weeks later, the positions were posted on the county website,” Garcia said. “NAAG had brought other candidates from California to come learn our positions.”
“I was told previously by Commissioner McKay and also by Greg George himself that our positions were secured, that their interest was to keep Lubbock County employed by Lubbock County people,” Garcia said. “After that, three of us were let go in one day,”
Neither Schoenhals nor Garcia were surprised to learn of the investigations into the office by the Texas Medical Board and the Texas Rangers.
“We all care for the county and are all citizens and residents of the county," Garcia said. " I would like to see the commissioners revisit and really think about who they are hiring and what kind of persons they are bringing into the county they say they love so much and have sworn to serve” Garcia said.
County Commissioner Jason Corely said commissioners will most likely review the contract with NAAG after the Texas Rangers complete their investigation.
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