Travis Co. Medical Examiner's Office
After year of screwups in the Travis Co. Medical Examiner's Office, Chief ME Roberto Bayardo announces that he will retire
By Jordan Smith, Fri., April 7, 2006
Bayardo, 71, will likely stay until a series of administrative processes identified last July as outdated in an outside audit of the office's nonmedical operations can be implemented. (County commissioners voted on Oct. 4 to hire a second outside auditor to conduct a "medical competency review.")
Bayardo's office has come under increasing scrutiny in the past year, as a string of apparent missteps have drawn increasing criticism of his operation. The office first reported that there were no drugs in 18-year-old police-shooting victim Daniel Rocha's system the night he died before later revising the toxicology report to indicate finding a trace amount of marijuana; The office had to revise the autopsy of Randy "Biscuit" Turner to reflect that Turner had cirrhosis of the liver caused by hepatitis-C and not alcoholism, as they first reported. Burnet Co. officials demanded a refund for a 2004 autopsy that TCME botched by misidentifying the burned remains of an 81-year-old woman as those of a 23-year-old man who'd faked his own death as part of an insurance scheme. And on March 23, Marble Falls JP Peggy Simon penned a scathing letter to Bayardo, complaining that "over and over" the TCME's work on Burnet Co. cases has been "unacceptable." (In a March 29 reply, Bayardo wrote that Simon's assertion is "unfounded.")
Bayardo turned in his official letter of retirement to county commissioners on April 4, writing that he will remain in his post until his replacement is found and a "smooth transition" is completed but, he added, his plan is to leave by the end of the calendar year. County officials estimate it could take up to six months to find Bayardo's replacement.
The TCME's office was already short-handed before Bayardo's Thursday announcement in addition to an already vacant position, Deputy ME Suzana Dana resigned her position last month and staff vacancies could delay plans to gain accreditation for the TCME by the National Association of Medical Examiners. (At press time, it was announced Dana will soon return.) Even before Dana resigned, the office's three full-time examiners (including Bayardo) were already performing more than 400 autopsies each year, far over the annual 350 autopsies-per-examiner maximum required by NAME. County officials are in the process of filling the two vacant deputy ME spots.
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