Former Spokane health officer Lutz files lawsuit for wrongful termination

click to enlarge The termination of former health officer Dr. Bob Lutz is the subject of a lawsuit against Spokane Regional Health District and the district's Administrative Officer Amelia Clark. - DANIEL WALTERS

Daniel Walters

The termination of former health officer Dr. Bob Lutz is the subject of a lawsuit against Spokane Regional Health District and the district’s Administrative Officer Amelia Clark.

Dr. Bob Lutz, through his attorneys, has now filed a formal suit for wrongful termination against Spokane Regional Health District, months after he filed an administrative claim that spelled out his grievances.

Similar to the October 2021 claim, the new complaint alleges that health district Administrative Officer Amelia Clark wrongfully fired Lutz on Oct. 29, 2020, without prior approval or a public hearing before the local health board, as required by law. Clark is also being sued as an individual.

The lawsuit, filed in Spokane County Superior Court on Feb. 8, calls for Lutz to immediately be reinstated as health officer and asks for damages for lost wages and potential future wages, as well as other costs and damages.

The complaint lays out examples of political pressure and disagreements between Lutz, Clark and politicians on the health board over gun control/suicide prevention, mask mandates, business and school closures and more. The complaint alleges those incidents ultimately led to Lutz being fired despite not having a performance plan or disciplinary action in his personnel file.

Lutz’s attorney Robert J. Carlson sent the Inlander the following statement by email:

“The primary basis for Dr. Lutz’s complaint is the Wrongful Termination of Dr. Lutz from his position as Health Officer of SRHD. The Claim for Wrongful Termination has numerous bases, including violations of statutory protections under Washington law, violations of internal SRHD bylaws, lack of just cause, and violations of public policy and State and Federal Constitutional protections. As included in the complaint, Dr. Lutz is seeking reinstatement to his position as Local Health Officer, damages resulting from the SRHD’s and Ms. Clark’s actions, and costs and attorney fees.”

On Oct. 29, 2020, Lutz met with Clark. While she could have discussed putting him on an employee improvement plan, she instead fired him. The next morning Clark would not clarify if Lutz had been fired, but said he was no longer the health officer. The community reacted negatively, and after multiple days of media coverage, Clark claimed Lutz had actually been placed on administrative leave. The health board swiftly planned a public meeting at which Lutz’s employment could be discussed, as required by law, for Nov. 5. After hearing from both Lutz and Clark, the board voted 8-4 to fire Lutz officially. 

The question of whether Lutz was fired under proper procedure has remained the biggest sticking point in the case.

Notably, the lawsuit mentions an email sent to the health board by health district attorney Michelle Fossum on Oct. 29, 2020, informing board members that Lutz had been terminated.

The email was first reported publicly by the Inlander in July 2021, but it was not mentioned in the October 2021 administrative claim that Lutz filed in advance of moving on to full-fledged litigation.

Clark and the remaining members of the health board have maintained that Lutz was not improperly fired, and the board has stood behind Clark, who faces her own hearing in front of the Office of Administrative Hearings in May. Depending on the outcome of that hearing, members of the Washington State Board of Health could take disciplinary action against Clark.

You can read Lutz’s full complaint against Clark and the health district here:

Article Source: Inlander