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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane health board responds to call for Amelia Clark’s termination

Dr. Bob Lutz, center, gives an update on the Spokane Regional Health District’s directives related to COVID-19 Friday, Mar. 13, 2020 at the SRHD headquarters. Lutz, the SRHD health officer, is standing between SRHD Administrator Amelia Clark, left, and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.   (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Kip Hill and Arielle Dreher The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Board of Health agreed Wednesday to draft a statement outlining its reasoning for hiring embattled Spokane Regional Health District Administrator Amelia Clark.

The vote came after the board spent more than an hour in executive session during a special meeting. The meeting was called after members received a letter from a now-retired director urging the board to fire Clark, who is the subject of a state inquiry whether she violated state law in terminating former health officer Bob Lutz.

“It would be appropriate for the board to make a statement – not only why we hired Amelia Clark, that the organization needed to change, and she’s executing on those elements,” said Spokane County Commissioner Al French, who brought the motion forward.

It passed with a single vote against it from Spokane City Councilman Breean Beggs, who cautioned against drafting a statement reviewing her job performance without conducting an in-house review first.

“It really hurts us legally if we take any corrective action, so I think it’s great for individual board members to express support, but before we do something formal that has a lot of meaning and ramifications, I think we should wait to do that,” Beggs said.

Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson, who voted in favor of drafting the statement, also cautioned that it shouldn’t be conclusive about Clark’s leadership.

“I don’t want this letter to have a predetermined outcome to it,” Wilkerson said.

After the meeting, Wilkerson said her vote was intended to prompt a review of the complaints by the board.

French said in the middle of his motion he personally supported the work of Clark, adding that she’d done “a yeoman’s job” in the role she was hired for in 2019. But the language of the statement, intended to respond in part to charges from former Director for Preventive Public Health Lyndia Wilson that the work environment had turned “hostile and toxic” during Clark’s tenure, will be drafted later for board review.

French said after the meeting he intended the board’s statement to praise Clark’s job performance.

“She is doing what we hired her to do,” French said.

French said the board would review the concerns raised in letters and emails.

The board also agreed to draft a response to a recent Inlander story containing emails that support the notion that Lutz was fired by Clark last fall.

That response will be written without Wilkerson, who was not there the day of Lutz’s firing or meeting with that committee before Clark took his keys. Beggs asked that his name not be on the letter or attached to that document, since his testimony of events leading up to the board’s firing of Lutz has been documented and might differ from what the letter states, he said.

Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney said both statements would be drafted quickly, but the one regarding Clark’s job performance “may take a little bit longer.”

The board is next scheduled to meet Sept. 30.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.