ALBERTA

Anny Sauvageau Lawsuit: Ex-Medical Examiner In Alberta Alleges Security Gaps

03/09/2015 02:23 EDT | Updated 05/09/2015 05:59 EDT
John Ulan/CP
EDMONTON - A former chief medical examiner says Alberta's handling of post-mortem examinations is so riddled with security gaps that staff can go in and change an official cause of death without a trace.

Anny Sauvageau says she found missing guns, questionable money handling and a system that allows people with criminal records to transport bodies from crime scenes — something she says gives them control over a critical legal chain of evidence.

The allegations are in a new court filing by Sauvageau, who is suing the province after her contract was not renewed late last year. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Sauvageau says she was let go because she raised concerns over how the medical examiner's office handles forensic examinations.

The province says Sauvageau was not rehired because she had overstepped her bounds of authority and was not getting along well with others.

In Monday's filing, Sauvageau rejected that criticism and lodged fresh allegations of problems with the office she inherited in 2011.

Her central charge revolves around autopsies, particularly computer security.

"Any (office) employee with access to the system could change the data in the system — for example cause and manner of death — with no trail of evidence to indicate who changed the information and when the change was made," she writes in the lawsuit.

She also says autopsy reports could be changed without the medical examiner being aware.

She says despite repeated warnings, Justice Department officials did nothing about the loophole except to tell her to "keep it secret."

Sauvageau says she also learned that bodies in homicide cases were being transported from crime scenes by people with criminal records.

She says when she tried to get criminal record checks put in place, she was overruled by department officials and by Justice Minister Jonathan Denis.

She also says the medical examiner's office lacked internal controls over the chain of evidence.

The result, she writes, was "an employee under the former chief medical examiner taking a firearm from the (office) evidence room to his own home for personal use, and several other firearms being unaccounted for."

She says there were problems with money management, including overtime fraud and three office bank accounts not disclosed to the government.

There were problems with workplace harassment, she says, with complaints filed in a drawer and ignored.

She says she was pressured to renegotiate a body transport contract with the Alberta Funeral Services Association, which added an extra $3 million over three years, to "make the minister look good" and to "protect the rural vote."

Denis's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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