Republican County Commissioner Partisan Meddling
The Spokane County Commissioners and the SRHD
Al French, Josh Kerns, and Mary Kuney, the three Spokane County Commissioners, all Republicans, still want to weaken—or take down—the Spokane Regional Health District’s (SHRD’s) efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Samantha Wohlfeil’s December 6 article in The Inlander entitled “Spokane health district fires two leaders heavily involved in pandemic response” describes this latest action by Amelia Clark that she disguises as cost cutting:
…at least two more management positions were unexpectedly eliminated Monday morning, Dec. 6, including the highest-level leader of the division that's been most involved in the district's pandemic response.
Three out of five division director positions at the district have been empty for months. District Administrative Officer Amelia Clark explained to Board of Health members in recent months that her proposed budget would combine some of those roles to save money.
Ms. Wohlfeil’s article quotes many employees at SRHD dismayed at the staff cuts and the manner in which they were carried out:
Two leaders [both involved in the response to Covid] were escorted from the building on Monday after being informed they were being placed on paid leave until Jan. 1, 2022, when they will no longer work for the district.
In other words, they were treated in the same manner as Dr. Bob Lutz was treated when Amelia Clark summoned him, took his keys, and escorted him out of the building in late October, 2020.
Amelia Clark justifies her action as an effort to “save money”. Let’s look at that. Ms. Wohlfeil writes:
The health board approved the final $47.8 million budget on Dec. 2, and the district is waiting to hear if Spokane County will approve a budget ask of $1.98 million toward that total.
Of the nearly 50 million dollar budget of the Regional Health District, Spokane County contributes just $2 million, four pennies of every dollar—and the District is “waiting to hear” if the County is willing to “approve” even that!??! What’s going on here? Who is pushing this belt tightening that Amelia Clark seems bent on extracting by summarily ushering directors of the pandemic response out the door? Is the County strapped for cash and having to tighten its belt on account of the pandemic?
Well, no, that’s a lie. Last week I received an email from the SpokaneGOP urging me to voice my opinion to the Spokane County Commissioners over how they should spend the $101 million dollars the County received in [the bold is mine] “the first allocation of the American Rescue Plan Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury.”
One hundred and one million dollars are coming to the County in federal funds related to the coronavirus pandemic and Amelia Clark is firing managers who worked on the pandemic response. Clark is awaiting “approval” from the three Spokane County Commissioners for 2 million dollars at the same time that the Commissioners received 101 million dollars in coronavirus relief from the federal government, money they have the discretion to disperse. Clark is playing along with the County Commissioners’ program to hamstring the Spokane Regional Health District’s efforts to respond to the pandemic. The Commissioners controlling the Health District Board and Clark, led by Al French, already fired an exceedingly competent County Health Officer, Dr. Bob Lutz, in a nasty spectacle last fall. More recently the Commissioners consolidated their grip on the Board with a reorganization plan that goes into effect January 1. 2022.
The SpokaneGOP, a party chock full of Covid deniers, science deniers, and vaccination protestors, wants its members to influence how the County Commissioners, all Republicans, spend the county’s federal grant of Covid-related money. Do not let Republicans be the only ones to weigh in on how that money should be allocated and give the Commissioners cover for them to squeeze the funding of the Health District in the middle of a pandemic.
If you are a resident of Spokane County I urge you to visit the county website:
Click “Community Survey” and fill out the form. Several of those 101 millions of Covid funds should go to the Spokane Regional Health District.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Commissioner Al French is fond of pointing out that it is the County, not the municipalities within the County, that “funds” SRHD (money that, in any case comes largely from the property taxes of city dwellers). He used that statement as part of his justification for restructuring the SRHD Board to cut out representatives from the city councils of the City of Spokane and the City of Spokane Valley. French, Administrator Clark, and the SpokaneGOP are all hellbent on taking revenge on the very people who have been helping Spokane deal with the pandemic. Don’t let them take the money away without weighing in.