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Bob Lutz sues Spokane Regional Health District alleging wrongful termination, defamation

Feb. 11, 2022 Updated Fri., Feb. 11, 2022 at 9:29 a.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)

Dr. Bob Lutz is suing the Spokane Regional Health District alleging wrongful termination and defamation following his ouster as health officer in October 2020.

He filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court against the health district and its administrator Amelia Clark. The lawsuit contains similar allegations as a damages claim delivered to the health district last fall, in which Lutz alleges he was politically pressured to ease COVID-19 restrictions and limit his public statements condemning racism before being fired in violation of state law and health district policies.

A health district spokeswoman confirmed Thursday afternoon the agency had received the lawsuit. She directed questions to the health district’s attorney. A call for comment was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

The local health district board released a statement last summer disputing claims that Lutz had been fired in violation of state law. The board has since been reconfigured with new members appointed.

Lutz’s tort claim sought $1.4 million in lost wages. The defamation claim could increase that amount. Lutz argues the district and Clark made “unprivileged false and untruthful statements about his ethics, professionalism, misappropriation of public funds and performance of his job.”

The lawsuit alleges Lutz was fired by Clark during a closed-door session on Oct. 29, 2020, though state law and the health district’s policies require a seven-day notice and a hearing before termination can take place. A split Spokane Regional Health District voted a week later to fire Lutz, who took a job with the state Department of Health. He’s still employed there.

The state Board of Health has scheduled a hearing in May to examine Lutz’s firing, after a complaint was lodged against Clark and the Spokane Regional Health District.

The lawsuit has been assigned to Spokane Superior Court Judge Annette Plese. A hearing is scheduled for late May.

Lutz’s lawsuit was filed the same day Erika Henry, a former assistant secretary of emergency preparedness and response for the Washington Health Department, sued her former employer alleging she was forced out of her job for criticizing the health district’s treatment of Lutz.

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