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Regional News

Former Spokane Health Officer Says He Was Fired

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Doug Nadvornick/SPR
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Former Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz has issued a second statement (see full version below), rebutting some statements made by the Spokane Regional Health District.

Lutz is the Spokane County health officer whose employment is in limbo after the district’s administrative officer told her health board she wants to remove him from his job.

 Late this afternoon, Lutz issued a statement through his attorney Bryce Wilcox that clarified his employment status with the SRHD.

In his statement, he writes that the administrative officer, Amelia Clark, had indeed fired him last Thursday afternoon. She asked for all of his SRHD-issued gear, cell phone, laptop, et cetera. He says in his statement that Clark offered three months’ severance, provided he waive any legal claims against the district and sign a confidentiality agreement. Lutz says he wouldn’t agree to that because he think he’s done nothing wrong.

He also said he has no idea who is now doing his former job.

Also on Monday, two Spokane city councilmembers issued statements with their reactions. Karen Stratton’s was the most forceful. She said she’s disappointed with what she calls “reckless accusations and conspiracy theories regarding the Board of Health and District staff.” She calls it a personnel matter, not a political issue, and says the district is guided by science in dealing with the pandemic.

Some, including health district employee Heather Wallace, are not convinced by that view, in part because the reasons for ousting Lutz haven’t been articulated. Wallace spoke Sunday afternoon at a rally on behalf of the health officer.

“What we need is continued level-headed, measured response, not a reaction to partisan pressure and we need to continue to have a health officer that is experienced and is grounded and is dedicated to following the health science," Wallace said.

At Sunday’s rally, nearly 600 community members signed a letter, demanding the health district be more transparent about the circumstances involved in removing and replacing Lutz.

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Bob Lutz's statement released Monday through his attorney, Bryce Wilcox.

I understand from media reports that a SRHD Board meeting will be scheduled to address the status of my employment, although I have not been personally advised of such.   I intended to await that meeting before commenting further, as I wanted to address the issues directly with the Board.  However, recent statements from the SRHD contained inaccurate and misleading information concerning my separation from employment that need to be clarified. To be clear, Amelia Clark fired me last Thursday.  She told me in a meeting late Thursday afternoon that I was terminated “effective immediately,” requested my SRHD identification, keys, cell phone and laptop, and told me I could contact HR to retrieve my personal items.  She also provided me with a written severance offer, stating that I had until the next day (Friday) at 4:00 p.m. to resign and sign the agreement. The offer of severance required me to waive my claims against the SRHD in exchange for 3-months pay, and a confidentiality agreement preventing me from disclosing the settlement terms.   I refused to accept SRHD’s severance offer, as I do not think Ms. Clark’s actions were justified or lawful.  As things stand, I was told I was fired and have been denied access to my office, phone, files, records and my computer since last Thursday.  I do not know who is currently acting as the SRHD’s public health officer.