South Sound News

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

As soon as Dr. Megan Quinn, the now-suspended Pierce County associate medical examiner, filed a whistleblower complaint against her boss, she became the target of what she calls false allegations of sexual harassment, calling into question the timing of the complaints, which surfaced after she went public with her concerns.

“I think it is a demonstration, once again, of how calculating he is,” said Quinn, referring to Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark.

Quinn first spoke to KIRO 7 on Jan. 24, the day she filed her complaint. On Jan. 25, an anonymous employee at the medical examiner's office filed a sexual harassment complaint targeting Quinn.

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The complaint states that, “from the first day that she worked, she has been very clear and direct about her sexual orientation and her preference towards women.” The employee said, “Quinn invited me out for drinks.” The employee said Quinn commented on an outfit she was wearing, saying she  “loved the way pastel looks on a woman.” She also said that, when she was recovering from surgery, Quinn told her that if “she needed to get out of the house, she would help me recover by giving me some wine.”

“Not only is the information untruthful, but even if the information in there were factual, it doesn’t describe sexual harassment,” Quinn said. She became aware of the complaint months after it was filed, during the investigation into her whistleblower complaint.

The day after that harassment complaint was filed, on Jan. 26, Clark got involved -- writing an unsolicited letter stating the sexual harassment complaint targeting Quinn was not his idea.

Clark began the letter by writing, “anticipating someone will accuse me of asking - name redacted - to file a sexual harassment complaint against Dr. Quinn,” and then went on to say, “I did not ask her to file a report. It was not my idea to file a report,” adding, “I did not know and did not have any way of knowing that - name redacted - felt harassed.”

“The timing of the complaints that were lodged against me, all of which followed the filing of my whistleblower complaint, is not accidental,” said Quinn. “The fact that my sexual orientation is introduced in that letter felt very, very purposeful.”

Criticism of sexual orientation is not an isolated incident, according to other employees at the medical examiner's office who accuse Clark of bashing gay people, particularly gay women.

“Yes, it was a common occurrence,” said former forensic investigator Melissa Baker, who filed a whistleblower complaint against Clark in 2016. She received an undisclosed settlement but her career as a medicolegal death investigator ended. Baker said gay bashing by Clark was something she often heard inside the medical examiner's office.

“He targets a lot of people but gay women especially,” Baker said. “I personally believe he thinks women are less than him. He went on a rant one morning at morning report about dykes on bikes parade. For several minutes, (he) just went on and on and on about it.”

In a 2016 interview, another forensic investigator accused Clark of bashing gay women, “talking about roller derby and how all roller derby women are lesbians. My sister is lesbian,” he said. “That's offensive.”

Quinn said she sees the accusations and investigations as a distraction and part of a pattern of retaliation because she spoke up, accusing Clark of conducting shoddy death investigations and sometimes giving inaccurate causes of death.

“We are talking about issues of medical malpractice,” said Quinn. “I mean, if going after my reputation for Pierce County to defend itself from the potential liability from those allegations I made is their choice, I mean, if that’s not retaliation I don’t know what is.”

KIRO 7 contacted the Pierce County Executive’s Office regarding the investigation into Quinn and the whistleblower complaint against Clark and received the following statement by email:

“An independent investigator is conducting a thorough review of various allegations that have been made against employees of the Medical Examiner’s office. We won’t be commenting further regarding any sexual harassment allegation where the complainant hasn’t waived their anonymity.”

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

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