Former Spokane Co. health officer files $1.4M claim over firing
The former Spokane County health officer who believes he was fired last year due to unpopular decisions he made to try to contain COVID-19 has filed a claim with the health district, which could lead to a lawsuit.
The Spokesman-Review reports Dr. Bob Lutz filed the administrative claim on Oct. 8. Robert Carlson, Lutz’s attorney, said the hope is that the district determines Lutz’s claim has merit and will work to resolve the issue out of court.
Lutz is claiming at least $1.4 million in damages for wrongful termination in addition to “defamation, emotional distress, mental anguish and injury to professional reputation” as a result of his firing in October 2020.
The health district has 60 days to respond to Lutz’s claim, at which point Lutz could proceed with a lawsuit.
The Board of Health Chairwoman Mary Kuney did not respond to request for comment.
In his claim, Lutz maintains that his firing was illegal under state and health district bylaws and he asks to be reinstated as the health officer and awarded the requested damages.
The claim details several examples of alleged political pressure and tension between Lutz and certain Board of Health members throughout 2020, especially when the county was stuck in limited phases due to COVID-19 case rates.
Lutz was hired by the Department of Health soon after he was fired, in a role to support the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response.
“I took a stand for Public Health. It cost me my job,” Lutz said in a statement released through his attorney on Wednesday. “As a public health physician, it has been my responsibility to protect the public’s health and safety.”