Complaint accuses Pierce County medical examiner of altering death certificates, lying to police

TACOMA, Wash. -- An associate medical examiner in Pierce County has filed a scathing complaint against her boss, alleging that Dr. Thomas Clark disregards forensic evidence, alters death certificates, lies to law enforcement and keeps copies of digital evidence without consent from investigative agencies.

Dr. Megan Quinn, an associate ME and forensic pathologist, filed the lengthy complaint against Clark on Jan. 23 and said the work environment "remains toxic" more than two years after a separate whistleblower investigation found that Clark's behavior was "arrogantly vindictive."

Quinn accuses Clark of disregarding accepted forensic pathology standards -- like electronic submission of fingerprints for analysis -- and preventing others in the office from adhering to those standards.

She referenced several cases in her complaint, including an infant homicide in which the baby showed evidence of blunt force trauma, a 15-month-old with injuries that were inconsistent with the history provided, and a 12-month-old who died in the care of his grandmother's boyfriend.

"The investigation and external exam findings were suspicious, but the autopsy Dr. Clark performed and subsequent investigation were insufficient to adequately draw the conclusion he reached because he failed to do the expected and required procedures in an investigation of an unexpected death of a child," the complaint states.

Quinn also alleges that Clark routinely refuses to meet with family members about autopsy findings, which she says violates state law, and alters death certificates without consent from the examining pathologist.

One of the most serious allegations in the complaint accuses Clark of lying to law enforcement and failing to cooperate with law enforcement officers during important investigations.

"In a recent officer involved shooting case, Dr. Clark refused a detective's request for a blood sample. This detective needed lab results quickly and was willing to cover the costs of labs, rather than wait for the State Crime Lab, where the results might otherwise be delayed for up to six months. There were three law enforcement officers on administrative leave waiting for clearance to return to work."

Clark, who has served as medical examiner since he was appointed in 2010, has not responded to the complaint.

Pierce County Communications Director Libby Catalinich released the following 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.”

The complaint also alleges that Clark routinely dismisses the opioid epidemic in Pierce County and refuses to collaborate with public health agencies, the U.S. Justice Department and the CDC in gathering data.

"He has told me disparagingly that I 'have an emotional relationship with the opioid epidemic,'" Quinn says in the complaint.

Quinn also maintains that Clark "abuses and exploits" his authority by demanding copies of digital evidence without any legitimate forensic purpose, including the full FAA audio recording of the plane stolen from Sea-Tac Aiport and video of an officer-involved shooting at Emerald Queen Casino.

You can read the full report here: 2019.01.24; quinn; final whistleblower complaint (1)