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SRHD Administrator 'very sorry' to see Spokane Health Advisory Council resignations

Clark is scheduled to meet with the council later this week, where she will introduce interim Spokane Health Officer Dr. Frank Velazquez.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Editor's note: The above video is from previous reporting on the state Board of Health approving an investigation into Dr. Bob Lutz's firing.

SPOKANE, Wash. —  Spokane Regional Health District Administrative Officer Amelia Clark released a statement on Sunday responding to the resignations of at least seven Health Advisory Council members.

Members of the SRHD Health Advisory Council said in a letter that they have resigned over Clark's actions related to the firing of former Spokane Regional Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz and other areas. 

Dr. Brian Henning, a now former member of the council told KREM 2, without Dr. Lutz, the council feels uncertain about decisions moving forward. 

"The health board seems more interested in finding someone who is compliant than it is to find someone who can speak frankly to the community," Henning said.

Clark said she was sorry to see members of the committee leave.

“I am very sorry to see these members of the Spokane Health Advisory Council choose to discontinue their support of the health district during a time when staff are working tirelessly to keep the community healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Clark said in the statement.

Clark fired Dr. Lutz over "performance issues" in October, leading to significant public outcry and thousands of emails submitted in support of Dr. Lutz. 

Dr. Michael Dunn with New ESD 101 is another member who resigned.

In response to Clark's statement, he said, "I can't speak for anyone but me, but I have tremendous respect for the other members of the Regional Health District with whom we meet on a regular basis. This is not about not supporting Spokane Regional Health District and I was very disappointed to read that."

The health district's by-laws say the administrator and health officer will review and select applicants to fill the vacant positions, according to spokesperson Kelli Hawkins.

The health district expects to begin the application process in January.

The Washington State Board of Health has approved a preliminary investigation into Clark's actions. 

On Monday, a spokesperson said the board is currently working with the state Department of Health to contract for a third-party investigator. Pending finalization of the contract, the board anticipates that the investigator will begin their work in December. 

Clark is scheduled to meet with the council later this week, where she will introduce interim Spokane Health officer Dr. Frank Velazquez.

“The council plays a valuable role that allows the health officer to better understand the health needs within our community, and then share that information with the appropriate programs,” Clark said. “I fully expect those conversations to continue with our Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez and with our future permanent health officer.”  

Dr. Patricia Butterfield from WSU, Dr. Michael Dunn with ESD 101, Dr. Cynthia Fitzgerald with Providence Healthcare, Dr. Brian G. Henning from Gonzaga, Rev. Genavieve Heywood of Faith Leaders, Community Organizer Petra Hoy and Dr. William Lockwood with Urgent Care all resigned from the advisory committee. 

"We will not be complicit in supporting administrators who have worked to subvert the public's health," the letter reads.

The letter accuses Administrative Officer Amelia Clark of the following: 

  • Undermined the effectiveness of SRHD by demonstrating divisive, unavailable, and incompetent leadership, 
  • Subverted the public’s health through your unwarranted termination of Dr. Bob Lutz. Dr. Lutz is a knowledgeable public health physician who was responding effectively to the COVID19 epidemic. His unnecessary termination has resulted in disruptions to public health services and a diminishment of trust within our community, and 
  • Undervalued the voice of underserved groups in Spokane and undermined our public health inclusivity efforts with Dr. Lutz. Dr. Lutz had been working with our committee to listen and co-create better health opportunities for underserved and underrepresented persons, and 
  • Failed to implement an evidence-based response to the pandemic, thus contributing to increases in morbidity, mortality, and unnecessary suffering in our region.

Committee members also wrote that Clark has had "extremely limited involvement with the Committee." Clark has only been to one Committee meeting, the letter reads. 

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