TULSA — A longtime doctor at the Oklahoma medical examiner's office and two supervisors have been fired after an investigation.
Dr. Andrew Sibley, investigator supervisor Brenda Kelley and administrative supervisor Ashley Hancock were fired July 12. The three Tulsa employees had been on administrative leave since late May when they were forced to leave work.
Officials called Tulsa police beforehand to assist, if necessary, with their removal in May, The Oklahoman was told.
The new chief medical examiner, Dr. Eric Pfeifer, fired all three himself, first by phone and then by certified mail.
Kelley was fired for violations of an employee conduct policy and a discrimination and harassment policy, according to her two-page termination letter.
“Acts of sexual harassment may include, but are not limited to ... sexual kidding or other contact in an intimate or sexual way, sexual jokes or stories,” Pfeifer wrote in the letter that provided no specifics about the alleged violations.
The medical examiner's office released Kelley's letter to The Oklahoman last week. The chief administrative officer, Amy Elliott, said she will release the other letters once she has proof they were received.
“The medical examiner's office places extraordinary value on its employees,” Elliott said. “We strive to create a high-quality and comfortable work environment that emphasizes service to the citizens of Oklahoma.”
Pfeifer did not respond to messages left by phone and email for comment.
Kelley and Hancock could not be reached for comment.
Sibley said last week by phone from Canada that he has not seen his termination letter yet. He complained he does not know what accusations were made against him. He said he was never given a chance to respond before being fired.
“This is terrible. This is terrible,” Sibley said.
“I have always thought that one should be given the opportunity to not only defend oneself against any allegations but, also, to at least know what the allegations are. ... I've not been asked any questions. I have no idea what the issue is,” Sibley said.
“A professional who has been with the agency for 12 years, through thick and thin, should be afforded a little bit more consideration than this,” he said.
Sibley, 50, served as the interim chief medical examiner for months until the board that oversees the medical examiner's office hired Pfeifer in March 2011. The Board of Medicolegal Investigations offered Sibley the top position in November 2010, but he turned it down.
Sibley has hired a prominent Tulsa attorney, Clark Brewster, who is considering taking legal action over the firing.
The attorney suggested Pfeifer acted so unfairly it shows he is unsuited to manage people. “It is truly shocking,” Brewster said.
Before coming to Oklahoma in 2000, Sibley was accused in Arizona of harassing female employees at the medical examiner's office in Pima County. One female employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Sibley and the county. Sibley was eventually dropped from the lawsuit, and the woman settled with the county. The amount was not disclosed.
A Pima County human resources investigation of the woman's complaints substantiated that “a sexually hostile working environment exists” at the medical examiner's office because the place had become permeated with sexual comments, stories, innuendo and jokes, records show.
In Oklahoma, a former female investigator once alleged Sibley and others said “many inappropriate things of a sexual nature” to and around her, records show. The investigator worked in the Tulsa office from 2005 to 2007.
Sibley in 2010 told The Oklahoman, “I've never harassed anybody. I'm the type of person who stays to myself and just wants to do my job.”
The dismissals are a sign of continuing turmoil at an agency where officials have been working to overcome widely publicized problems. Gov. Mary Fallin said last year it was time for the agency to get past the challenges that have plagued it and “move to a new day.”
The agency is responsible for investigating sudden, violent, unexpected and suspicious deaths. Much of the work at the medical examiner's office involves autopsies that are crucial to murder cases and important to families wanting answers about why their loved ones died.
The problems have included loss of national accreditation in 2009, in part because the main office in Oklahoma City is a small, outdated facility.
In May, bodies sent to the Oklahoma City office had to be kept in refrigerated trucks until a 42-year-old cooler could be repaired.