Ex-DNA lab chief said police knew of bad grades when he was hired


Highlights

Scott Milne wrote that he was assured interim Police Chief Brian Manley knew of his poor transcripts.

Milne was hired over Jody Koehler, who now runs the lab under DPS management.

Milne’s firing came as DPS turned its back on Austin police lab staff.

The former manager of Austin police’s DNA lab, who was fired after word of his poor grades in college spread, says interim Police Chief Brian Manley knew of his poor grades when he was hired.

In a letter to members of a public safety advisory board, former chief forensics officer Scott Milne said that, when he was placed on administrative leave back in November, an Austin police commander assured him that both former Austin Police chief Art Acevedo and Manley knew of his spotty academic records when he was hired.

“In my opinion, I don’t think what they are saying about knowing my grades is accurate.” Milne told the American-Statesman on Thursday. “I remember seeing my transcripts on (Acevedo’s) desk and they were never brought up.”

Austin police didn’t provide a response by press time.

Austin police no longer operate a DNA lab, turning over the management of its facilities in March to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Police Department had shuttered operations at the lab about a year ago after it received a scathing review from the Texas Forensic Science Commission that questioned the capability of the lab’s staffers and their methods in examining DNA samples.

Milne said he learned there was some sort of political struggle over the DNA lab shortly after he was offered the job last fall to get the facility back on track. Before he started, he learned that a certain group of people had wanted a Department of Public Safety DNA lab employee, Jody Koehler, to run Austin police lab’s operations.

Koehler is now the supervisor of the DPS-run lab at the Austin Police Department.

A member of the Forensic Science Commission notified Austin police last fall that she had issues with Milne’s grades. And shortly after he started with the Austin police on Nov. 27, he learned that DPS auditors had looked into his grades during an audit of the Arizona state DNA lab where he had previously worked.

His transcripts showed several instances in which he got low grades or failed classes related to forensic science at two universities. However, after eight years of study, he earned a bachelor’s degree.

By the end of his third week at the Austin police lab, Milne went from being welcomed into the department to learning the DPS would no longer train Austin police lab employees he believed to be capable and then to finally being placed on administrative leave after a meeting with Manley.

“Chief Manley said that if he had known about my grades, I never would have been hired,” Milne said in his letter Monday to members of Austin’s Public Safety Commission. “He looked at me and said clearly you must understand. I said no, not at all. I was a different person back then. Call my previous employers, call my references, call people I have worked with. I guarantee you that if they don’t say I am the best analyst they have worked with they will tell you that I am one of the top analysts.”

Milne was officially terminated in April, he said. He was paid about $37,000 while he was on administrative leave, plus an additional $57,500 to quit and not sue.



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