Exclusive: Health Dist. Administrator Amelia Clark finally answers questions about Lutz firing

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Regional Health District Administrator Amelia Clark has not taken questions since this fall, when she controversially fired then-Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz.

For the first time since then, she took questions from 4 News Now’s Nia Wong.

For weeks, questions lingered about how she fired Lutz, but her decision was made permanent when the Health Board voted 8 to 4 to remove him from his position.

RELATED: Spokane Board of Health votes to terminate health officer Dr. Bob Lutz

“In the case of a health officer, it’s never going to be easy, but I have the support of the board,” Clark said in the fall.

It has not been easy. COVID-19 cases are surging in our community and new restrictions are suffocating local businesses and schools. All of this comes as Spokane County is left without a permanent health officer in the middle of a pandemic.

Trust between health agencies and the public is crucial to crushing COVID-19, but it is evident the health district lost trust in the fallout of Lutz’s departure. When asked about who is responsible to restore trust, Clark put that on herself.

“Yeah, I think that responsibility comes back to me as the leader of the organization,” Clark said. “I think, you know, self reflection is a big part of my leadership process and looking at things I can do differently and that’s something I’ll always continue to do, as that’s my leadership style.”

Days before Lutz’s termination was official, Clark dismissed him. It was a move that some questioned was even legal. When asked repeatedly if she had any regrets on how she handled the situation, she repeatedly deflected the questions.

“Yeah, I’m not going to go into that right now,” Clark told 4 News Now.

“Some of this, Nia, is you’re getting into discussions that Amelia is not able to talk about,” said Communications Manager Kelli Hawkins.

Complaints filed by former City Council President Ben Stuckart and a Gonzaga University assistant professor led the State Board of Health to opening an investigation into Clark. The board confirmed that investigation is still underway and Clark said the agency has been in touch.

RELATED: WA State Board of Health approves investigation against SRHD admin Amelia Clark

“The investigaor will set up an interview and they’re gathering information,” Clark said.

She would not tell 4 News Now when this would happen, only that it would be “soon.”

Meanwhile, Clark is still part of the group searching for a permanent health officer for Spokane County.

“We just went through receiving requests for proposals from recruitment organizations,” Clark said.

She said a recruitment plan is in the works and will be presented to the Board of Health on January 28.

While Clark owned up to the responsibility of repairing trust now that Lutz has moved on, she did not explain how she planned to do it, but did leave us with this:

“I think one of the things that I’m really trying to empower here in the community and with the health district is that, you know, we have a great team here that has been working on the response since the very beginning.”

RELATED: Emails show administrative officer promised to correct inaccurate statement on Lutz’s dismissal, but she never did