Despite new evidence, Health Board denies Amelia Clark wrongfully terminated Dr. Lutz
SPOKANE, Wash. — Despite a leaked memo and email indicating otherwise, the Spokane Regional Board of Health continues to deny that Administrator Amelia Clark wrongfully terminated former Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz.
The question that remains murky is whether or not Clark fired Lutz in a conversation on October 29, 2020. The issue at hand is that, in her role, Clark must ask the health board about termination and initiate the process during a public meeting. In Lutz’s situation, that did not happen until a week after.
The BOH released a statement Friday in response to an article published by the Inlander which cited an email from their attorney Michelle Fossum.
According to the Inlander, the email was sent to health board members and confirms that as of 5:40 p.m. on October 29, Clark had terminated Lutz.
The Inlander also reported that Fossum sent a letter to the state Board of Health around the same time indicating that Clark met with Lutz on October 29 and gave him until 4 p.m. the next day to resign.
In their most recent statement, the BOH said the email obtained by the Inlander was protected under attorney-client privilege and an investigation into how it was obtained is underway.
“The Spokane Regional Board of Health (BOH) does not agree with statements made by various individuals who have alleged Administrative Officer Dr. Amelia Clark terminated Dr. Bob Lutz in violation of Washington law. Dr. Lutz was terminated by the BOH in an open public meeting on November 5, 2020, as required by law,” the statement said.
That said, a memo released by Seattle-based law firm Ogden Murphy Wallace April said a preliminary finding determined Clark “refused or neglected to obey or enforce” state requirements that forbid the removal of a local health officer until after a notice is given, and an opportunity for a hearing before the board.
Read the BOH’s full statement below:
On July 30, 2021, the Pacific Northwest Inlander (Inlander) published an email that was protected under attorney client privilege. It remains under investigation how the Inlander obtained that email as there was no inadvertent disclosure made to the Inlander in its public records requests.
The Spokane Regional Board of Health (BOH) does not agree with statements made by various individuals who have alleged Administrative Officer Dr. Amelia Clark terminated Dr. Bob Lutz in violation of Washington State law. Dr. Lutz was terminated by the BOH in an open public meeting on November 5, 2020, as required by law. The disclosed email adds to the public’s confusion surrounding the October 29th meeting between Dr. Clark, Dr. Lutz, and then BOH Chair Ben Wick. However, as they were the only individuals present at that meeting, they are the only ones who can speak directly to what was said at that meeting.
As that email has now been released, the BOH finds that it is necessary to re-state what transpired at the Thursday, October 29, 2020, meeting between Dr. Lutz, Dr. Clark, and Mr. Wick.
As reported by the Washington State Board of Health’s preliminary investigation, Dr. Clark stated that in her meeting with Mr. Wick and Dr. Lutz on Oct. 29, she asked Dr. Lutz to resign. She further stated that if he didn’t resign, she would go forward and request approval of termination from the BOH.
In addition to Dr Clark’s statements that Dr Lutz was asked to resign on October 29, Mr. Wick shared his recollection, “After a continued discussion with Dr. Lutz on his performance, Dr. Clark advised Dr. Lutz that she was moving forward with his termination and offered him [Lutz] the opportunity to provide his resignation in lieu of termination.
The resignation offer included a severance package and a mutual non-disclosure agreement if agreed to before 4 pm on Friday Oct 30. Similar to any employment suspension, Dr Lutz’s badge, phone, keys, and SRHD computer access was requested and frozen.”
The BOH would like to point out that statements from all three have been consistent; Dr. Lutz was not terminated at that meeting. Dr. Lutz’s public statement dated October 31, 2020, makes it very clear he understood he was not terminated by Dr. Clark on October 29, 2020:
An excerpt of Dr. Lutz’s statement (as reported in the Spokesman-Review on 10/31/2020):
“To be clear, I have not resigned. I maintain a strong desire to continue working to promote the health and safety of the citizens of Spokane County and this region. The manner, timing, and motivation underlying the request I resign is troubling, and I have hired Mr. Wilcox to assist me in pursuing all available legal remedies should the SRHD’s Board decide to terminate my employment.”
It is clear from Dr. Lutz himself, Dr. Clark, and Mr. Wick, who have the same recollection, he was not terminated on Thursday, October 29. Dr. Clark followed proper procedure and requested a hearing before the BOH for the Board to consider Dr. Lutz’s termination. Dr. Lutz was terminated by the BOH for cause on November 5, 2020, in full accordance with Washington State law.
No further authorized statements or interviews regarding this issue will be made by board members or the administrative officer until the legal proceeding at the Washington State Board of Health Hearing is complete.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the State Board of Health has released a memo about Clark’s firing of Dr. Lutz. That memo was released by instead released by Ogden Murphy Wallace.
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