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Delaware public health official facing corruption charges

April 27, 2021 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A high-ranking state medical official who is also a former lawmaker has been indicted on charges of official misconduct and falsifying business records, Delaware’s attorney general announced Tuesday.

Rebecca D. Walker, director of nursing in the state Division of Public Health, is accused of submitting phony records regarding employee alcohol and drug testing over a period of almost five years while she served as deputy director of the state Division of Forensic Science.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Socials Services said Walker was placed on paid administrative leave from her nursing post Tuesday, meaning she is still drawing her state salary.

“Beyond that, DHSS does not comment on personnel matters,” DHSS spokeswoman Jill Fredel said in an email.

As Democratic vice-chair of the House Health and Human Development, Walker cosponsored and helped pass a bill in 2014 that created the forensic science division. Months later, without a public job posting, she was hired as deputy director of the division at a salary of more than $92,000.

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“I firmly maintain a high ethical work standard and believe that my qualifications and background demonstrate I am well suited to help move this division forward,” Walker was quoted in a newspaper article as saying after taking the job.

The indictment issued Monday alleges that between May 2015 and February 2020, Walker “with the intent to defraud,” falsified employee substance abuse testing records, indicating that employees had passed tests they never received.

The alleged falsification occurred in the wake of an evidence-tampering scandal involving the former Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and its drug laboratory. That scandal caused upheaval in the criminal court system, resulted in the arrests of two employees and the firing of the medical examiner. It also led lawmakers to abolish the medical examiner’s office and replace it with the forensic science division.

Walker is charged with falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, and official misconduct, all misdemeanors. She could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Officials with the Delaware Department of Justice’s Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust, also announced the indictment Tuesday of William Freeborn, former executive director of the Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank.

Freeborn is accused of accepting at least $28,000 in unauthorized cash deposits between February 2019 and May 2020 for properties that he misrepresented as belonging to the Land Bank. He faces felony counts of theft by false promise and misapplication of property and a misdemeanor count of official misconduct. The offenses with which he is charged carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

“We cannot and will not tolerate violations of the public trust,” Attorney General Kathleen Jennings said in a prepared statement.

It was not immediately clear whether Walker or Freeborn have attorneys who could comment for them.