EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

September 14, 2012

Two out, third official may be fired at state lab

BOSTON — The bureau chief of the state crime lab at the center of a controversy over the alleged mishandling of drug samples has resigned, a previously suspended lab director has been fired and the Patrick administration has begun “discharge proceedings” against a third crime lab supervisor.

Health and Human Services Secretary Judy Ann Bigby, Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan and State Police Colonel Timothy Alben yesterday provided the greatest detail to date of how more than 60,000 drug samples at a state crime lab in Jamaica Plain may have been tainted by a rogue chemist leading to the shakeup.

Lab Bureau Chief Dr. Linda Han resigned on Wednesday, while the director of the analytical chemistry division at the Department Public Health, Dr. Julie Nassif, was fired for their roles in a massive tampering case that Bigby attributed in part to lax oversight and an “unacceptable delay” in notifying superiors.

The state has also begun proceedings to dismiss the chemist’s direct supervisor, who is a member of civil service. Officials declined to identify him.

Suspicion of the testing being conducted by chemist Annie Dookhan first surfaced in June 2011 when an evidence officer noticed that tests had been performed on 90 drug samples that had never been signed out of the evidence room, breaking the chain of custody. Nassif was notified of the breach in protocol, but she did not immediately inform superiors at the Department of Public Health, according to a chronology provided by state officials.

Days later, upon further inspection of the log book, officials found that Dookhan had added her initials and those of others to the sign-out sheet after the fact. Though she was immediately removed from full-time testing duties, Bigby said her office has since learned Dookhan continued to perform periodic testing and testify in court.

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