Dr. Lutz removal could ‘jeopardize the health and stability of the community’ write regional academics, physicians in open letter

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SPOKANE, Wash. — An open letter signed by academics and Providence’s regional director for ethics calls for the Board of Health to allow community input in the decision to remove county health officer Dr. Bob Lutz.

“The timing of the BOH decision and the lack of a clear interim health officer during a moment of peak COVID-19 cases in Spokane County jeopardize the health and stability of the community,” the letter reads.

The letter also notes that the decision by the board violates the Open Public Meetings Act, which requires transparency in government. Due to this, the letter says, whatever led the Health Board to ask Dr. Lutz to resign is still unknown, and the legality of that “drastic action” is also called into question.

RELATED: SRHD Board to vote on Lutz’s termination, announces possible replacement

“We celebrate the way his leadership has been informed by science and the principles of the ethical practice of public health, even in the midst of politically charged rhetoric about behavioral countermeasures necessary to combat the virus,” the letter continues. “The effectiveness of this leadership was recently recognized when Dr. Lutz and the SRHD received an Humanitarian Award which honored their visionary action and guidance amidst the uncertainty of the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

The professors and physicians who signed the letter say the Dr. Lutz has been “non-partisan,” data-driven, inclusive, clear and transparent in his policies for a phased reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If Dr. Lutz is removed and the “personnel issues” that led to this decision are made public, the academics urge the Board of Health to provide reasoning for his termination.

The letter was signed by Providence regional director for ethics Dr. Andrea Chatburn, Eastern Washington University Public Health lecturer Dr. Pam Kohlmeier, Gonzaga University professor Dr. Maria Howard and Whitworth assistant professor Dr. Kari Nixon.

RELATED: ‘I have not resigned’: Lutz hires lawyer to fight ‘troubling’ calls for his departure

RELATED: Spokane NAACP says calls for Lutz’s resignation are ‘sudden, secretive, and untimely’