The manager and a technical analyst have resigned from the Broward sheriff's crime lab, where an internal affairs investigation into a chemist's work and allegations of missing drugs at the facility has been underway since January.
Dr. James Ongley, 62, the former manager, and Randy Hilliard, 55, the former analyst, resigned March 28.
Hilliard said Thursday that he and Ongley met with two colonels last Friday and were told "the sheriff had lost faith in the management of the laboratory. They told us they didn't want it to end this way, but gave me the choice to retire and save my benefits or be fired."
Broward Sheriff's spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said, "The resignation forms will have to speak for themselves. Both gentlemen decided to retire from BSO and the Florida Retirement System, and those are the reasons they gave on the forms they signed."
Coleman-Wright said BSO will do a national search to replace them.
Hilliard said he ran the drug analysis unit and supervised chemists. His 2013 performance evaluation found he met or exceeded expectations, and said he intended to retire in less than two years.
Ongley's evaluation showed he exceeded performance expectations. Ongley couldn't be reached Thursday.
Hilliard said he had no idea why they were asked to resign.
"We didn't do anything wrong," he said.
BSO's investigation of the lab began when two cases from the summer of 2012 drew officials' attention. Two sets of drug evidence didn't weigh the same — by about 5 grams and approximately 15 grams — as when they were originally measured by chemist Kelli McDonald, according to a Broward sheriff's document.
The Broward State Attorney's Office said on March 5 it was reviewing more than 520 open and active drug cases where McDonald is a witness.
"They're continuing to retest cases where she was an analyst, as they come up in court," Jeff Marcus, chief assistant state attorney, said Thursday. "In at least one case that went to trial, drugs in evidence weighed the same as when she first tested it."
The sheriff's investigation includes an independent audit by a Virginia-based consultant who was hired in March. State law prohibits release of details from the internal affairs investigation and audit until the case is closed, Coleman-Wright said.
McDonald is under the same restriction and could not be reached for comment. She was hired in 2006 and tested evidence in more than 5,800 cases, according to a supervisor's memo. On Feb. 4, she was assigned to a job at BSO's Fort Lauderdale headquarters.
The lab has a $4.7 million budget that is supplemented with monies from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and National Institutes of Justice, BSO said. It serves all law enforcement agencies within Broward County and in 2013 received 22,757 cases.
Its 37 analysts, clerical staff and evidence-intake clerks will be managed by BSO Lt. Ed Sileo until a new manager is hired, Coleman-Wright said.
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