San Joaquin County Forensic Pathologist Announces Resignation, Cites ‘Unbearable’ Work Environment Under Sheriff

STOCKTON -- A San Joaquin County forensic pathologist announced her resignation Monday, describing her experience working with Sheriff Steve Moore as "unbearable and professionally unsustainable."

Dr. Susan Parson started with the county in October 2016.

In her resignation letter, obtained by FOX40, Parson writes that Sheriff Moore did not create a suitable working environment:

In general terms, Sheriff Moore's intrusion into physician independence ranges from forcefully taking over physician scheduling to inserting himself into how and when Dr. (Bennet) Omalu and I perform our medial duties with attempts to control and influence our professional judgment and conclusions. This ultimately undermines the overall competence of the Coroner's Office in conducting objective death investigation for the county.

Parson goes on to describe Sheriff Moore's behavior as "arrogant and retaliatory."

MORE: Click here to read Dr. Parson's full resignation letter.

Parson did not respond to a request for an interview, but FOX40 spoke with her union representative, Patricia Hernandez.

"She is resigning because of the work conditions that Sheriff Moore has imposed on the forensic pathologists," Hernandez said.

Hernandez said Parson had complained that the sheriff was interfering with her work.

Moore declined to speak to FOX40 on camera, but issued a statement saying he was saddened to learn of her "negative view" of him:

As the Sheriff and Coroner of this County, I take my job very seriously. As Coroner, the law requires me to make the final determination in the manner of death in each case processed here at the Office.

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.

"The things that she’s saying is in line with everything that I’ve heard," Frank Gayaldo, a former San Joaquin County correctional officer and frequent critic of Moore, told FOX40.

Gayaldo applauded Parson for speaking up.

"But what she’s saying fits a pattern of what both private citizens and law enforcement professionals have been saying about Sheriff Steve Moore," he said.

Parson also criticizes the sheriff's leadership, saying he “orders physicians to report, behave, and respond to him like rank-and-file sheriff’s officers, producing an intolerable work environment.”

Hernandez told FOX40 if conditions at the coroner's office do not change, Chief Pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu may also leave. She said Omalu has been in talks with other counties.

Meanwhile, the San Joaquin District Attorney's Office said it was investigating the claims made in Parson's letter.

Parson's last day with the county is Feb. 25.