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Review Prompts Changes At Colorado Toxicology Lab

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(credit: cdphe.state.co.us)

(credit: cdphe.state.co.us)

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado health department announced changes at its toxicology lab after a personnel investigation found that refrigerators holding drivers’ blood-alcohol samples were unlocked.

The investigation also found understaffing and inadequate staff training.

The refrigerators were in a locked room, but a janitor had access to it. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Friday that all refrigerators with blood-alcohol samples are now locked and the staff is receiving more training in providing court testimony. An investigator with Mountain States Employers Council Inc. said the chance of tampering appeared to be minimal.

Department executive director Chris Urbina said Mountain States Employers Council was contracted to investigate following staff complaints about a supervisor, who retired last week. The supervisor was reassigned after the allegations were discovered, Urbina said.

Complaints included that the supervisor had asked some employees to help with her master’s thesis during work hours and that some of her statements suggested a bias for prosecutors. Some employees reported inadequate training and understaffing.

The department said it is hiring a new lab manager who will evaluate workflow.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers advised district attorneys and defense lawyers in a letter Friday that a report on the investigation included information that could be mitigating evidence in the prosecution of certain cases involving the lab.

However Urbina and Suthers’ office stressed that the investigation concerned personnel issues, not the validity of the lab’s tests.

“The lab is outstanding,” Urbina said, noting its role in confirming listeria in cantaloupe in 2011.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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