South Sound News

Whistleblower accuses Pierce County Medical Examiner of shoddy death investigations

TACOMA, Wash. — Associate Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Megan Quinn filed a whistleblower complaint Wednesday, accusing Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Tom Clark of shoddy investigation practices.

“I believe that he deliberately makes a decision to take shortcuts,” Quinn said.

In the complaint, Quinn alleges, “Dr. Clark reaches inappropriate conclusions about cause and manner of death through his deliberate disregard of forensic evidence.”

Citing the death of a 15-month-old girl earlier this month, Quinn alleges, “Dr. Clark prematurely declared the cause an accidental overlay resulting in asphyxiation” even though Quinn states she and doctors treating the girl at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, “were highly concerned about inflicted injury and intentional asphyxiation.”

“By my judgment there is a good chance that we left in place an individual who has demonstrated a proclivity toward child abuse,” Quinn said of the case.

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In early 2016, Clark was the subject of another whistleblower complaint by lead forensic investigator Melissa Baker, who accused him of being vindictive and creating a hostile work environment.

“He yells, he’s very passive aggressive,” Baker said at the time. “You would be hard pressed to find anybody in that office that’s not fearful of him.”

Baker won a cash settlement with Pierce County and Clark was ordered by the Pierce County executive to develop a plan to work on his interpersonal skills.

Quinn alleges that hostile environment still exists and says she has lost trust in the medical examiner's office both professionally and personally.

“I have told individuals in my own family that I would like it to go on record that I do not want an autopsy performed on my body at the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s office,” Quinn said.

A message left for Dr. Clark at his office requesting comment on the whistleblower complaint was not returned. Pierce County Council spokeswoman Libby Catalinich responded to KIRO 7 in an email statement: “We are aware of the complaint, are undertaking a thorough investigation and will take appropriate action in response to any findings. We are committed to upholding the highest medical and ethical standards in the Medical Examiner’s office.”