JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Medical Examiner Valerie Rao has been the subject of recurring complaints from her co-workers dating back to 2009. According to letters sent to the the city, "Rao has been seen touching cadavers with her bare hands, washing her feet in the autopsy sink, and performing unnecessary autopsies on inmates to create a revenue stream."
Channel 4's learned that Rao actually has a history of complaints dating back 10 years, while she was Medical Examiner for Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. Dr. Rao was the Medical Examiner there from 2000 to 2003.
Channel 4 uncovered the minutes from the Medical Examiner's Commission meeting on May 15, 2003, that revealed concerns about Rao from funeral homes, organ donor organizations and law enforcement agencies.
In the minutes officers expressed disapproval of Dr. Rao's "propensity to classify virtually all prison deaths as homicides, and lack of expertise by office personnel in the management of crime scene investigations."
Funeral Directors complained that Dr. Rao's office lacked consistency when dealing with funeral homes. The documents from the 2003 Commission meeting also specified that virtually all the complaints about Rao concerned her "administrative skills", not her "abilities as a forensic pathologist."
In that same meeting, the commission voted unanimously not to recommend her re-appointment.
After she left Florida, Dr. Rao took a Medical Examiner position in Missouri. When Channel 4 dug deeper into her time in Missouri, we uncovered more complaints.
In 2006, a television station in Columbus Missouri indicated that some of the pathology residents from the University of Missouri were, "glad to see her go." According to the story, Rao didn't work enough with the residents.
Eventually Rao returned to Florida and was appointed Medical Examiner of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties in late 2011, a term, that according to Governor Rick Scott's Office, expired in July 2012.
Channel 4 called the governor's office Wednesday afternoon in hopes of learning more about Rao's career and why she is still working as the Medical Examiner in our area if her contract expired in 2012. The press officer was not able to get that answer for us.
Channel 4 also reached out to the agencies who made complaints about Rao; only one person returned our calls Wednesday and did not want to comment.