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Amelia Clark, state Board of Health agree to resolve complaint over Bob Lutz firing with her resignation

Aug. 30, 2022 Updated Tue., Aug. 30, 2022 at 10:40 p.m.

Health District Administrator Amelia Clark, left, is seen in this March 2020 photo during a news conference with then-Health Officer Bob Lutz concerning the COVID-19 outbreak. Clark’s handling of Lutz’s dismissal as health officer will not get a hearing before the state Board of Health next month, as she and the state have agreed she will not seek future employment as the administrator.  (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Health District Administrator Amelia Clark, left, is seen in this March 2020 photo during a news conference with then-Health Officer Bob Lutz concerning the COVID-19 outbreak. Clark’s handling of Lutz’s dismissal as health officer will not get a hearing before the state Board of Health next month, as she and the state have agreed she will not seek future employment as the administrator. (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The embattled, outgoing administrator of the Spokane Regional Health District has agreed not to seek the position again following the expiration of her contract next month to resolve a complaint about her controversial dismissal of the organization’s former health officer.

Representatives for Amelia Clark and the state Board of Health signed an agreement Aug. 16 that prevents Clark from ever serving in the position again. Clark faced multiple complaints alleging she violated state law by dismissing Bob Lutz in October 2020, with an independent investigator later finding evidence she had acted without the approval of the local health board as required by statute.

Clark had been scheduled for a hearing next month before state investigators to answer charges stemming from the dismissal, which Lutz has alleged in a federal lawsuit was politically motivated based on his actions intended to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this summer, she announced she’d be leaving the office three days before that hearing was to be held. The order earlier this month, signed by Senior Administrative Law Judge Dan Gerard, dismisses the case before that hearing could happen.

Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney, chair of the local Board of Health who has defended Clark’s leadership of the health district and disputed that Clark dismissed Lutz, said Tuesday that the state health board had made the right decision in dismissing the case.

“I’m pleased with the decision to do that, and grateful that we’re going to move forward,” Kuney said.

Clark was not available for comment on the resolution of the case Tuesday, said Kelli Hawkins, communications manager for the health district.

Former City Council President Ben Stuckart, who was one of the people who filed a complaint against Clark, said he understood the state Board of Health didn’t have authority over Clark if she was no longer the administrator in Spokane. But he wished the order signed by the judge would have prevented her from taking another, similar job elsewhere, based on the investigator’s findings of evidence of a violation.

“The results were pretty crystal clear, I thought,” Stuckart said.

The order, and Clark’s communication to local Board of Health members, states that she has “accepted a position outside of the state of Washington and thus will be resigning her position” on Sept. 16.

The local board has asked for bids from firms that will recruit Clark’s replacement, Kuney said. The district is collecting proposals through Friday, followed by advertising and interviews. During that time, the district will be run by a combination of the health officer, Francisco Velázquez, and other administrative staff, Kuney said.

The next administrative officer will serve at the pleasure of a local health board that has the potential for turnover over the next several months and years due to recent actions by the Spokane County Commission and a change in how commission members are elected. The board’s membership, changed by the commission in response to new state law, includes three members of the commission who will have to be picked from five when that panel expands to five members after this fall’s election.

Three of the eight members of the local health board are also selected by a majority of the County Commission to two-year terms.

Lutz has sued the local health board and Clark, alleging wrongful termination and defamation, in federal court. A jury trial in that case is scheduled for October 2023.

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