How’d the Board of Health meeting go, you ask?
After what felt a bit like a kangaroo court, Spokane Regional Health Officer Bob Lutz was fired last night in an 8-4, mostly party-line vote. (To catch up on this sordid tale, start with our first two stories.)
Lutz’ prickliness (Lutz admitted to being “curmudgeonly”)
Improper use of tax payer money for employee lunches (Lutz apologized and has been continued buying “overworked” employees lunch, on his own dime)
A sub-$200 cellular hotspot Lutz bought so he could attend meetings while at his lake cabin
One complaint of inappropriate touching. Clark called it a “massage”; Lutz said he touched an employee’s “arm”
Commissioner Al French said he thought it was inappropriate that Bob Lutz attended a BLM rally while Spokane was on lockdown, which raised some eyebrows:
Topics not discussed:
Basically anything about the profoundly broken circumstances surrounding Lutz original “termination.”
In fact, Amelia Clark’s performance was not brought up at all, despite all of the above, and a sharp rebuke from over a 100 of Clark’s subordinates submitted for consideration:
Among the evidence submitted but not discussed in the meeting was a letter of no confidence signed by 121 of Protec17, the union that represents of 176 SRHD employees. That’s a super majority, representing almost 69% (nice) of the membership.
The letter from Union Rep Suzie Saunders read, in part:
Ms. Clark has demonstrated her unwillingness or inability to be transparent with SRHD employees and the community, has failed to communicate support for SRHD employees, and has actively attempted to suppress open communications within the agency. This is not a course of action taken lightly, but is intended as a signal that we believe Ms. Clark has demonstrated, through her actions, that her position as Administrative Officer is untenable.
Another SRHD employee told me a second letter of no confidence — this time from the nurses on staff — is forthcoming.
Big yikes. Can an administrator effectively run a health department where half of her employees have no confidence?
Guess we’ll find out!
Earlier in the week, per Samantha Wohlfeil of the Inlander, former Health District division director Sheila Masteller said she retired early to get out from underneath Clark:
“I think Amelia is an authoritarian, a top-down administrator who is a person who gives direction to everyone else without asking for input,” Masteller says …
“She, in her controlling nature, never wants anybody to speak without going through her, ever, on anything … So I know that some of this conflict during the COVID period had to do with his quick access to the public and giving guidance and statements to the community.”
One prominent supporter of termination
In the interest of balance, it’s important to say that, along with 1,100 letters in support of Dr. Lutz, the board got a letter in support of firing him from one particular VIP:
Mayor Woodward wrote, in part:
“My initial reaction when I first heard the news was it was the best news I’ve heard in a long time and that I support Administrator Clark’s decision … I, like most in our community, am frustrated. Frustrated that we have not progressed faster in our efforts to limit the spread of the virus, take smart and measured steps to reopen the economy, and be a model for the rest of our state, region, and country. So, I think it is time for a different approach.”
Board members had repeatedly stressed that the vote had nothing — nothing! — to do with Lutz performance, then Mayor Woodward went and said the quiet part loud.
Read the whole thing here.
The members of the board who voted to fire Lutz seemed to want to restore a smidge of the public’s confidence, the board then vote unanimously to name Dr. Frank Vasquez Interim Director.
There was just one problem.
So yeah, confidence in our overlords restored.
At least Frank Velazquez — the former CEO of PAML, for the record — will come in knowing that, having hit rock bottom, the institution has nowhere to go but up.
Except the night wasn’t over
At around 8:45 pm, the City Council released a statement from the sitting members that was … weak, to say the least:
Damn. With friends like these, who needs friends, amirite?
Despite that less than full-throated support, Lutz and his attorney vowed to fight on:
What can we do?
Hearing a lot of this ^ tonight, so let’s end on some action items. Options are pretty limited, but there are three concrete things people can do, one you need to do RIGHT NOW and two are longer term plays:
GET ANGRY | Email the state board of health.
Do it by noon tomorrow. They are expecting you:
Below is the info regarding the next WA State Board of Health (WSBOH) meeting on Monday, 11/9/20.
For complaints to the WSBOH, RCW 70.05.120 briefly describes the state board’s authority as it relates to local health officials (health officers or administrators). It allows any person to complain to the WA State Board of Health regarding a health officials failure to carry out public health laws or rules. This section specifically mentions a preliminary investigation and a hearing (by SBOH). Complaints should be sent to the main Washington State Board of Health inbox at: WSBOH@sboh.wa.gov or mailed to WSBOH, PO Box 47990, Olympia, WA 98504.
Please note, there is not currently a link or form on the SBOH website to directly file a complaint.
Please submit written public comments to the Board in advance of the meeting. To help ensure Board members have an opportunity to read and consider your comments before the meeting, please email us your comments by Friday, Nov. 6 by 12:00 Noon. Written comments received after 12:00 Noon on Friday will be shared with Board members; however, Board members may not have the capacity to read or consider your comments over the weekend before the meeting or during the meeting. You may give verbal comments at the meeting during the public comment or rules hearing segments.
GET INVOLVED | Apply for a seat on the board next time
It’s now well known that Board of Health member Jason Kinley — a naturopath who got onstage at the Reopen Spokane rally on May 1 and spread a bunch of anti-science bullshit — was the ONLY person to apply for his seat.
There’s a structural problem with this board, but it’s not helped by leaving seats vacant to people who don’t believe accepted science. So consider throwing your name in the ring.
BUILD POWER | County Commission expands to 5 seats in 2022
That structural problem mentioned above might get better in 2022, but only if we can elect better County Commissioners once the commission expands to 5 seats.
That’s it for now. Wish I had better news. Oh wait:
Loren Culp, former Gubernatorial candidate — in the middle of a rambling anti-concession speech — let it slip that Republic had voted to defund its police department where he was the only officer.
After everything that has happened this summer and fall, the one place that actually defunded police was a town whose police chief was such an asshole they just abolished the department.
Here’s the facebook live. Pay attention to the person smoking a cigarette behind him. That is a mood.