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NFL’s CTE doctor quits San Joaquin County job; says sheriff interferes in death investigations

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Benjy Egel
The Sacramento Bee

Dr. Bennet Omalu Tuesday announced his resignation as San Joaquin County’s chief medical examiner, saying Sheriff/Coroner Steve Moore’s interference in death investigations has created a legally and ethically questionable workspace.

In the letter filed with county administrator Monica Nino, Omalu alleged Moore engaged in misconduct such as cutting off the hands of corpses without pathologists’ knowledge and blocking physicians’ scheduled pay raises.

“Recently, I became frigidly afraid that in continuing to work under the circumstances Sheriff Steve Moore has created in his office that I may be aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine,” Omalu wrote. “ On many occasions, I met with him privately and provided him written memorandums trying to explain to him that the law does not allow him to insert himself in the duties of a physician unless he is a licensed physician.”

Omalu’s resignation follows that of forensic pathologist Dr. Susan Parson last week. Parson alleged more than 20 episodes of misconduct by Moore between May 25 and Dec. 1, including improperly handling corpses and reclassifying causes of death without due diligence, in a memo of her own.

The memo includes an email from Omalu and Parson to Sgt. Mike Reynolds with the subject line “scheduling of work hours of physicians, physician independence, physician professional judgment and unbiased credibility” sent Aug. 20. In the email, Parson and Omalu object to the sheriff’s office forcing them to surrender planning of their schedules among other conflicts.

“As physicians we beginning to feel extremely intimidated, harassed, threatened and controlled by some of the practices, cultures and traditions of the Sheriff’s Office,” the email said. “(They) are beginning to erode our independence as physicians and are beginning to influence our professional judgments, analyses, conclusions and opinions on each and every case we do in the office.”

Omalu will continue serving in his role through March 5, according to his letter of resignation. He has been the chief medical examiner for 10 years and gained nationwide fame for his working uncovering CTE brain damage in football players, which was profiled in the movie “Concussion.”

Check back at sacbee.com for updates.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel

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©2017 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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