Salisbury, NC (WBTV) – The chief of staff of the Salisbury VA Medical Center was removed from his position on Friday, amid a sexual harassment scandal that has stretched more than a year.
Doctor Subbaro Pemmaraju was removed as the top doctor at the VA medical center, a spokeswoman confirmed Monday morning.
Multiple sources familiar with the personnel action, who requested the not be identified to share details of a personnel matter, told WBTV Pemmaraju was removed by the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection after local leadership failed to act.
WBTV first exposed the scandal—and Pemmaraju’s role in it—last year.
An EEO hearing office found Pemmaraju should be removed after he failed to take appropriate steps to discipline a subordinate who was found to have credibly sexually harassed a hospital employee.
But local hospital leadership didn’t take any action.
Emails reviewed by WBTV show Salisbury VAMC Director Joe Vaughn consulted with DeAnne Seekins, who oversees VA medical care for North Carolina and Virginia as VISN 6 Director, about whether to take any action regarding Pemmaraju.
Seekins, the emails show, approved taking no action against Pemmaraju.
More recently, when WBTV inquired in July about the lack of disciplinary action taken as a result of the probe, Vaughn refused to answer questions from the station and a spokeswoman issued the same one-sentence statement that was issued last year.
Salisbury VAMC spokeswoman Marlous Black issued the following statement:
“Salisbury VAMC has temporarily detailed Dr. Subbarao Pemmaraju to clinical duties and named Dr. Mark Heuser as Acting Chief of Staff until further notice. The Salisbury VAMC Director will follow due process and has taken appropriate action, which includes the OAWP review.”
Black denied that Pemmaraju was removed at the direction of OAWP but did not answer follow-up questions seeking an explanation as to why he was removed, then, after more than a year of inaction from local VA leaders.