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'I took a stand for public health. It cost me my job': Dr. Lutz plans to sue SRHD for wrongful termination

"The motives of others will not deter my advocacy. I will continue to stand for the public’s health," Dr. Bob Lutz wrote in a statement.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Former Spokane Regional Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz plans to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination against the Spokane Regional Health District after his controversial 2020 firing, according to his attorney Bob Carlson.

Lutz led Spokane County's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in his role. After serving as health officer for more than three years and leading Spokane County through the coronavirus pandemic, Spokane Regional Health District Administrator (SRHD) Amelia Clark asked Lutz to resign and he was subsequently fired in a board meeting. There was significant public outcry with thousands of emails submitted to the board in support of Dr. Lutz.  

A preliminary investigation conducted at the behest of the Washington State Board of Health (WSBOH) found evidence that Clark may have violated state law when she ousted Lutz. In a meeting following the release of the findings, the WSBOH voted unanimously to move forward with a formal hearing.

 Dr. Francisco "Frank" Velázquez, who served as interim health officer after Lutz's ouster, was appointed to the role permanently in early October.

Lutz's attorney wrote in a press release on Wednesday that he has submitted an administrative claim, a prerequisite to the filing of a civil lawsuit, to the Spokane Regional Health District for wrongful termination. The claim is "intended to put SRHD on notice of Dr. Lutz’s claim of tortious conduct by SRHD," according to the press release. Dr. Lutz is seeking damages, reinstatement to his position, and his costs and attorney fees, his attorney said.

The claim outlines clashes between Lutz and Clark, and with other board members, over COVID-19 policies that impacted the region's economy and Lutz's stance on various social issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

Dr. Lutz released a statement through his attorney, writing in part that he will "continue to stand for the public's health."

“I took a stand for Public Health. It cost me my job," Lutz said in the statement. "As a public health physician, it has been my responsibility to protect the public’s health and safety. I have done so ethically and with integrity. The motives of others will not deter my advocacy. I will continue to stand for the public’s health.”

In the claim, Dr. Lutz alleges violations of statutory protections under Washington law and SRHD bylaws, lack of just cause for his firing, and violations of public policy and state and federal Constitutional protections. It also includes a claim for defamation due to the "impact on Dr. Lutz of the insensitive, unprofessional, and untrue statements made and implied by SRHD's leadership and certain of its Board members," the press release says.