‘How do we remedy this?’; WA Health Board votes to hold formal hearing into Dr. Lutz’s firing

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington State Board of Health declared the preliminary findings into former health officer Dr. Bob Lutz’s firing are enough to warrant a hearing.

Spokane Regional Health District administrator Amelia Clark, who fired Lutz on October 29, 2020, will be called to testify at the hearing, which does not have a scheduled date yet.

Seattle-based law firm Ogden Murphy Wallace released preliminary findings in their investigation into Amelia Clark, which found she illegally fired then-public health officer Dr. Bob Lutz.

The report said Clark “refused or neglected to obey or enforce” state requirements that forbid the removal of a local health officer until after notice is given, and an opportunity for a hearing before the health board.

The State Board of Health unanimously approved the investigation into Clark just days after Lutz’s dismissal.

RELATED: Preliminary report finds health administrator broke law in firing Dr. Bob Lutz

Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah and Dr. Bob Lutz were recused from the meeting, and board members quickly moved into an executive session to speak with legal counsel about possible litigation they would face talking about the dismissal.

Karen Sutherland with Ogden Murphy Wallace then presented findings from the preliminary investigation.

Sutherland said she found no preponderance of evidence—meaning the evidence suggests less than a 50 percent chance—that the Spokane Regional Health Board gave Lutz an opportunity for a hearing during executive session. Lutz was effectively terminated on October 29, 2020. The SRHD Board discussed his dismissal on November 5, 2020, but Sutherland noted Lutz was still fired at that point, meaning he still did not have an opportunity for a hearing, based on preliminary findings.

The State Health Board unanimously moved to hold a formal hearing on Lutz’s dismissal, where Clark will be present to testify.

“If errors were made in human resources, the board certainly announced their intent to back Ms. Clark… they had 30 minutes of testimony from Clark, 30 minutes of testimony from Lutz, then they made their decision,” said board chair Keith Grellner, saying he believed the board moved to ‘bail out’ Clark. “I’m not sure what the hearing will solve, other than hearing more of the truth.”

“I think we have ample information that Ms. Clark was wrong, that she did not follow RCW,” said Vazaskia Crockrell. “The question is ‘How do we remedy this?’ The board, which we can’t hold responsible… the reality is, they did not follow the law.”

RELATED: ‘If I was in Amelia Clark’s shoes… I would resign’; An in-depth look at the investigation into Dr. Lutz’s illegal termination