SRHD fires Dr. Lutz

Michael Brock

Dr. Bob Lutz — the prominent face of Spokane County’s response to the last nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic — was fired Thursday from his position as the county’s health officer.

In a four-hour public special meeting held via ZOOM, the Board of Health for Spokane Regional Health District voted 8-4 in favor of terminating Lutz, who had been in the post since June 2017. The decision came after a nearly two hour public meeting, a private executive session of over 60 minutes, and subsequent hour-long public comments from the board.

By the end of it, Lutz was out — while Dr. Francisco (Frank) Velazquez was approved as the interim health officer, at least until the next scheduled SRHD board meeting on Dec. 5 when board members will re-evaluate.

The Nov. 5 meeting followed a week of uncertainty, after Amelia Clark — administrative officer for SRHD — reportedly asked Lutz to step down on Oct. 29. The next day, SRHD held a press conference that left reporters and the community seeking clarity on whether or not Lutz was still employed with the health district.

During the special meeting on Thursday, both Clark and Lutz were given 30 minutes to present remarks. Clark spoke first, bringing forth allegations of insubordination, sexual harassment, communication issues, among others, to buttress her argument for the doctor’s termination.

“On November 26th, 2018, Dr. Lutz was counseled regarding a complaint received by human resources that he had massaged a female employee's neck and put his knee behind her knee,” Clark said during her remarks. “And that these actions were unwelcome. The employee also reported that Dr. Lutz grabbed employees’ name tags, wherever they might be attached on the employee’s body.”

Lutz said during the meeting that he had touched the employee’s shoulder, but doesn’t recall kneeing her. He also acknowledged that he used to grab lanyards, especially those of people he didn’t recognize, but has since stopped after learning his lesson.

Read the full story in the Nov. 11 edition of the Deer Park Tribune.