A month after the Spokane Regional Health District Board’s controversial decision to fire Dr. Bob Lutz as county health officer, he has accepted a new position at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
Lutz will join the department’s COVID-19 response team, a spokesperson told The Spokesman-Review.
“Dr. Lutz’s experience as a local health officer and his clinical expertise will bring great value to our state’s response efforts,” a DOH statement says.
Lutz’s hiring coincides with additional changes at the state, including the departure of two top leaders just as COVID-19 numbers surge to record levels, hospitals are filling and promising vaccines are expected.
Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman is leaving for a faculty position at the University of North Carolina, which he had committed to before the pandemic struck. Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Dr. Umair Shah as the new health secretary. Shah, who will start work Dec. 21, led Harris County Public Health in Texas for seven years.
Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer, has announced her resignation from the agency by the year’s end. The search for Lofy’s replacement started in November. Lofy has said she is leaving to focus on her family and health.
Lutz still serves as the Asotin County public health officer and sits on the State Board of Health.
In early November, the Spokane Regional Health District Board of Health fired Lutz after Administrator Amelia Clark had locked him out of the district and effectively ousted him a week earlier.
A statement from Lutz’s attorney, Bryce Wilcox, maintained Lutz’s firing “was politically motivated in retaliation for unpopular Covid-19 decisions he made this year.”
Community members rallied around Lutz, holding protests, flooding board members with public comments and asking Clark and the board to reconsider.
The State Board of Health, absent Lutz, has authorized an investigation into whether Clark broke the law in firing Lutz before the board took a vote.