The Spokane, Wash., Health official was officially fired Thursday evening despite an extraordinary outpouring of public support from medical professionals, school officials and activists who were shocked that it was canned at the amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 100 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded Thursday in the health district, where the positivity rate is now flirting with 3% and hospitalizations are also on the rise.
But the advice was eaten up by a personal drama that seemed to boil down to a contest of wills between the health official, Dr Bob Lutz, who has been described as Dr Fauci of Spokane, and his boss, administrative manager Amelia Clark. .
During a public Zoom session, Clark cataloged a litany of alleged transgressions by Lutz, portraying him as a renegade who ignored his orders and “acts like the rules don’t apply to him.”
She said she received complaints from employees and the public that Lutz attended an anti-racist protest during the lockdown, made public statements about gun violence and called businesses asking to reopen during the pandemic as “selfish. “. She said staff members complained that he criticized them for eating meat and that one of them was upset about massaging his neck.
Lutz admitted he could be “demanding, irascible, bristly and downright cranky,” but said many of the claims were bogus, distorted or out of context. Further, he told the board, “my decisions were based on the science I have.”
Asked by board members, Clark admitted that she never stuck to her stated intention to give Lutz a corrective action plan during a meeting last Thursday. Instead, he claims, she told him he was fired “with immediate effect” – even though the board had not voted.
News of the ouster attempt – and the secrecy surrounding the process – sparked rallies in favor of Lutz. One protester, epidemiologist Anna Halloran, told the Daily Beast earlier this week that her dismissal was baffling.
“He is qualified, he is competent, he is supportive and caring, compassionate, respectful and decent,” she said. “He lets people practice drawing blood from his own arm. He is exemplary at every turn. Why the hell would you want to remove a health worker during a pandemic? “
During the board meeting, Lutz said he was ready to take advice, training or mediation to improve his working relationship with Clark – who seemed to just want him to go.
“I don’t know if Dr Lutz and I could get back to this point,” she said.
After a lengthy executive session behind closed doors and then a public debate, the board voted 8-4 to end Lutz. His lawyer, Bryce Wilcox, said ahead of the vote that they reserved their right to challenge the dismissal, saying the timing and motivation for the dismissal was “highly suspect.”
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