Pierce County whistleblower to get big cash settlement

Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Megan Quinn

TACOMA, Wash. — The Pierce County Council quietly approved a cash payout for a whistleblower, Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Megan Quinn, at the end of its meeting last week.

"We have a motion to approve the final settlement in the matter of Quinn versus Pierce County," said Council Chair Doug Richardson, in the meeting's final minutes, "in the amount of $450,000."

A unanimous vote approving the settlement came after a brief statement by County Executive Bruce Dammeier calling for the settlement as part of his 2020 budget. It's the first time Dammeier has spoken publicly about the turmoil in the ME's office.

"I'm hoping that you will approve, kind of the final step, of closing what has been a difficult chapter in our Medical Examiner's Office," Dammeier said to the council.

The decision to settle comes after Quinn filed a whistleblower complaint against Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark in January, accusing him of shoddy death investigations. Immediately after that, Quinn was suspended from her job and accused of insubordination and sexual harassment in two separate complaints. She denied the accusations.

"They are honestly full of lies," Quinn told KIRO 7 in September.

A statement released by Pierce County on Tuesday announcing Quinn's agreement to resign at the end of the year states that an independent investigation concluded, "no findings of wrongdoing were made regarding Dr. Quinn."

Quinn's $450,000 settlement is the second time Pierce County has paid cash because of complaints surrounding Clark. In 2015, former forensic investigator Melissa Baker received $210,000 after she filed a whistleblower complaint against Clark.

"I just want to say shame on you, Pierce County, for letting this go on," Baker said in a September interview. "It's despicable."

Clark announced in mid-September that he will retire leaving as soon as a new medical examiner is hired then officially retire at the end of 2020, according to a county spokeswoman.

But Clark still faces Quinn's original whistleblower complaint along with the investigation of three complaints filed with the Washington Medical Commission, which expanded its investigation in July into charges that Clark, "fails to send vitreous electrolytes," or bodily fluids, "for testing in the deaths of children that were ruled undetermined."

The complaint also alleged that he, "performs limited autopsies in cases of undetermined SIDS," or sudden infant death syndrome, and, "fails to perform autopsies on charred bodies recovered from a fire scene."

In a statement to KIRO 7 Quinn said: "I have been honored to serve the people of Pierce County as Associate Medical Examiner.  I am proud of my work for the County, and I am disappointed to announce my resignation effective December 31, 2019."

See our previous coverage of the Pierce County Medical Examiner below.

September 92016 whistleblower complaint alleged similar behavior by Pierce County Medical Examiner

September 6: Suspended Pierce County forensic pathologist says she's being targeted because she's gay

August 21: Video shows Pierce County medical examiner discussing controversial decision about teen's death

August 19: Pierce County's prosecuting attorney says subpoenas demanding records from media won't be refiled

May 14: Employee claims Pierce County Medical Examiner fabricated evidence

April 11: Family of teen who died in fall from Puyallup bridge suing to have cause of death changed

March 13: Employees speak out on Pierce County Medical Examiner

March 12: Family claims Pierce County medical examiner should not have ruled son's death a suicide

March 8: Attorney representing Pierce County Medical Examiner responds to complaints

March 7: Independent review unveils concerns on some of Pierce County Medical Examiner's conclusions

March 6: Police speak out on how Pierce County medical examiner handled possible homicide case

March 4: Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark now facing three separate complaints

March 1: New details on the investigation into Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Tom Clark

January 24: Whistleblower accuses Pierce County Medical Examiner of shoddy death investigations