TACOMA, Wash. — A 2016 whistleblower complaint filed against the Pierce County medical examiner alleged many of the same behavior employees say is creating a difficult work environment at the ME’s office.
In March, forensic investigators Jill Lombardi and Jacob Atzet told KIRO 7 what it was like working for Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark.
“We’re terrified to speak out because we’re afraid of retaliation, we’re afraid of bullying,” said Lombardi. “I don’t think Dr. Clark should be in charge or oversee any human being,” Atzet said.
KIRO 7 has obtained a copy of interviews conducted nearly four years ago after an earlier whistleblower complaint was filed against Clark. In interview after interview, employees, members of law enforcement and firefighters described Clark's behavior.
“He doesn't like to be challenged at all,” a Lakewood police detective said in one interview. “If you do you'll suffer,” he said, describing Clark as vindictive. A firefighter interviewed said he ended a phone call with Clark because, he was talking down to me,” telling Clark, “I don't appreciate your talking to me like a 12-year-old.” A forensic investigator said, “He's nuts, bottom line,” describing Clark as “paranoid”. An autopsy technician interviewed said of Clark, “he's a bully.”
“I just want to say shame on your Pierce County for letting this go on. Despicable,” said Melissa Baker, a former forensic investigator who filed the first whistleblower complaint in 2015. She received a cash settlement but her career as a forensic investigator ended.
Baker and others said Clark even targets deceased people brought to the ME's office for examination to determine cause of death.
One investigator said, “body on the table, overweight, he'll make overweight comments.” Dr. Matthew Lacy a former associate medical examiner now with Snohomish county interviewed by KIRO 7 in March is quoted in 2015 saying, “he does it a lot.” And, “has a tendency to judge people on their body habits.”
There have definitely been disparaging remarks. Regarding people’s weight or their age,” Lombardi said in March.
“I don’t want to die in this county,” said Baker. “I don’t want any of my loved ones to die in this county because I do not want any of them to go to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office. I know what’s going on there and clearly it’s just gotten worse.”
According to a county spokeswoman after the 2015 investigation, “Dr. Clark was expected to complete a program to strengthen his interpersonal skills but I won’t comment on that as it is a personnel matter and not subject to public disclosure.
See our previous coverage of the Pierce County’s Medical Examiner below.
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