CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A former manager is suing the N.C. medical examiner's office, saying he was forced into retirement because he told investigators that a state pathologist had mishandled murder evidence.
The Charlotte Observer reports 57-year-old Kevin Gerity filed a lawsuit claiming that threats to fire him violated the state's Whistleblower Act.
The whistleblower law protects state employees from intimidation and retaliation when they report on "matters of public concern."
In 2011, Gerity told his bosses that one of the state's leading pathologists failed to turn over to detectives a bullet fragment recovered from a homicide victim. Two years later, he cooperated with an SBI probe into how evidence was handled.
In a December 2013 letter warning Gerity about his pending dismissal, the state described him as an office "bully" who acted inappropriately when he personally collected a bullet fragment left behind after an autopsy. The letter said that it appeared Gerity was trying to discredit the pathologist, Dr. Clay Nichols, who performed the autopsy, by the way he photographed, collected and presented the bullet to Nichols.
Gerity resigned Dec. 9, three days after state officials told him he'd likely be dismissed. He retired weeks later.
Gerity's attorney, Michael C. Byrne, said the medical examiner's office targeted his client because he spoke out about the bullet, which the pathologist kept until turning it over during the SBI investigation.
"It's about as clear-cut of a case (of retaliation) as I have seen," Byrne said.
"They were retaliating against him for raising Cain about it (the bullet fragment) in the first place, and they thought he was the one who tipped off the SBI and the media," Byrne said, adding that Gerity did not tip off the SBI.
Byrne said the medical examiner's office was angry that his client cooperated with the state's investigation into the 2011 autopsy of Terrell Boykin, a 19-year-old Cumberland County man who was shot and killed during a double homicide.
A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 26 in the Office of Administrative Hearings in Raleigh.