State Crime Lab manager resigns over mishandled cases

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by KREM.com, Sten Walstrom

NWCN.com

Posted on April 16, 2013 at 10:36 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 8 at 6:15 AM

CHENEY, Wash.-- The manager of the State Crime Lab in Cheney has resigned amid an investigation into whether or not he mishandled several cases and claimed to have completed laboratory case work that was never actually done, according to the Washington State Patrol.

WSP spokesman Robert Calkins says employees working under Kevin Fortney informed the Washington State Patrol of the problems in January.  Calkins said some of the cases involved arson but would not be specific, citing the need to contact local authorities and prosecutors about each individual case to see if they want to revisit or reopen them.

WSP says Fortney appeared to have acted alone, and characterized the mismanagement as Fortney claiming to have done work on cases that was never actually completed.  Calkins said WSP is not commenting on the specifics of any possible motive at this point. 

WSP says in the investigation to date, it does not appear the mismanagement affected the outcome of the cases, but cannot be sure until it contacts the local investigators and prosecutors assigned to each case.

Calkins says nothing up to this point has risen to the level of a criminal investigation into Mr. Fortney, who resigned last week.

Calkins says WSP is "proud" of the employees at the State Crime Lab in Cheney for alerting about their boss' alleged wrongdoing.

“We continue to have confidence in the work of our front-line scientists and supervisors in Cheney, and at our other labs throughout the state,” said WSP Crime Laboratory Division Commander James Tarver. “These allegations involved a single laboratory manager, and do not appear to reflect upon any of our other personnel.” 

In addition to the original investigation conducted by the WSP Office of Professional Standards, Tarver ordered an internal management audit of the Cheney operation and requested that WSP Risk Management Division conduct a full evidence audit for the Cheney lab.

The State Patrol is notifying local prosecutors and the police agencies which submitted the cases identified in the investigation.  The Washington State Forensic Investigations Council and Washington State Prosecutors were notified of the investigation, as was the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, Laboratory Accreditation Board.

The cases involved in this investigation appear to be older ones, assigned to the manager while he worked as a front-line crime lab scientist.

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