Pathologist Says San Joaquin Sheriff Interfered With Investigations, Created Unbearable Working Environment

A San Joaquin County pathologist who is stepping down after a year on the job is blaming interference, retaliatory behavior, and an overall toxic working environment created by Sheriff Steve Moore.

“In general terms, Sheriff Moore’s intrusion into physician independence ranges from forcefully taking over physician scheduling to inserting himself into how and when [the chief medical examiner] and I perform our medical duties with attempts to control and influence our professional judgement and conclusions,” wrote Dr. Susan Parson in a stinging resignation letter to County Administrator Monica Nino. “This ultimately undermines the overall competence of the Coroner’s Office in conducting objective death investigations for the County.”

Sheriff Moore addressed the letter last week.

“I deeply value the work of pathologist Susan Parson and am sad to learn she has a negative view of our experience working together. However, I want to make it clear that at no time did I attempt to control or influence her professional judgment and conclusions.”

Retired sheriff’s Sgt. Pat Withrow, who is challenging Moore in the next election, called Parson’s allegations “everyone’s worst nightmare.” She’s giving up a lot by resigning from the job, he noted, including a generous salary that was set to increase, a $20,000 signing bonus that will have to be returned, and the chance to work with world-renowned pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu whose study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football players was chronicled in the critically acclaimed book-turned-film Concussion.

Parson’s departure places the county in a tough spot. Before her hiring, San Joaquin often had to outsource autopsies to private providers or nearby counties when Omalu was unavailable.

Even worse is the possibility that Omalu’s departure could soon follow. The chief medical examiner hasn’t indicated any plans to leave, but Parsons says she’s “certain” that he will.

Read her letter of resignation here


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