Spokane Health Board Votes To Fire Health Officer Bob Lutz
The Spokane County health board has fired Health Officer Bob Lutz, the man who has been the face of the county’s battle against the coronavirus since March.
The eight-to-four vote came after a four-hour proceeding, during which Adminstrative Officer Amelia Clark listed a detailed list of actions that she says warranted Lutz’s removal.
“I have witnessed Dr. Lutz’s refusal to work with, talk to or acknowledge staff with whom he is angry. The cold shoulder and silent treatment are unprofessional and unacceptable in a professional employee. Dr. Lutz has directly stated to me that he does not want to be part of a team, that he should not be micromanaged and he does not want to report to anyone," she said.
She also accused Lutz of a variety of other things, including insubordination for writing newspaper op-ed columns that pushed his own personal agenda, instead of promoting health district policy. Clark said Lutz is guilty of bullying and retaliation, especially against female staff.
Lutz disputed some of Clark’s characterizations, but admitted he isn’t always easy to work with.
“I recognize that I can be demanding, irascible, bristly and downright curmudgeonly at times. I do share responsibility for some of the tensions that have arisen with Ms. Clark, based on our differing personalities and look forward to forging a more productive relationship with her going forward, perhaps with the help of some management coaching sessions and the like," Lutz said.
But board member Mary Kuney said that was tried in June and it didn’t work. Clark said she wouldn’t be open to trying that again because she’s lost trust in Lutz.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French was one of the eight votes to fire Lutz.
“In my opinion, Ms. Clark has more than met the threshold that would expect to justify the termination of Dr. Lutz. I believe it is time for leadership that reflects the values of the board, the agency and the community," he said.
One of the keep Lutz votes came from Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson, who referenced his public support.
“Dr. Lutz has been the face of this pandemic. He has been out front. The letters of support, which are over 1,100, have been just amazing and I mean across sectors, every sector, from school districts to higher ed to the medical community to people in the community," she said.
After the vote, Lutz’s attorney, Bryce Wilcox, issued a statement that indicated Lutz intends to sue, believing he was wrongfully terminated. And the union representing more than 120 employees issued a statement of no confidence in Clark’s leadership.
After Lutz’s termination, the board voted to hire Dr. Francisco Velasquez to serve as interim health officer until at least December 3, the date of the health board’s next meeting. Velasquez is the former CEO of PAML, the former Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories in Spokane.