Mark Beatty (left) and Jefferson Ketchel

Mark Beatty (left) and Jefferson Ketchel

Resign or be fired: County health officer had a choice

Severance documents raise questions about the “amicable” departure of top public health officials.

EVERETT — Two former leaders of the Snohomish Health District each were given three months of severance pay when they abruptly resigned in June.

Health officer Dr. Mark Beatty left his job through “an involuntary resignation in lieu of termination,” according to documents obtained by The Daily Herald.

The departures of Beatty and administrator Jefferson Ketchel were announced after a special meeting in June. The agenda gave no hint of the action that would take place, other than mentioning an executive session of up to 90 minutes. Both resignations were accepted with unanimous votes.

What led up to the resignations remains unclear from the records released last week.

The separation agreement between Beatty and the health district provides for a severance package equal to three months of pay. He was making $94.22 an hour, according to health district records. That works out to roughly $49,000 over three months.

Ketchel joined the health district in 2015 as the environmental health officer and rose to the administrator’s post in April 2017. He was due $40,626 under the terms of his separation agreement.

After his departure, Ketchel used the term “amicable” to describe his resignation. Since then, he has been hired as an interim executive director for the Washington State Public Health Association.

Health district leaders also used the word “amicable” to describe both resignations.

A provision about potential unemployment insurance made it clear Beatty had been forced out. It read: “In connection with any unemployment application by Beatty, the parties will indicate that Beatty’s separation resulted from an involuntary resignation in lieu of termination.”

In both separation agreements, the health district said it would not contest any application for unemployment insurance benefits.

Beatty’s signature is dated June 12 and his resignation became effective at that time, according to the separation documents. The health board didn’t vote on it until six days later.

Shawn Frederick (top) and Chris Spitters

Shawn Frederick (top) and Chris Spitters

Ketchel’s agreement, by contrast, is dated June 18 — the day of the health board approved it — and didn’t take effect until July 1.

The board appointed Shawn Frederick, the district’s administration services director, as interim administrator. Dr. Chris Spitters, the district’s contracted physician for tuberculosis control, is serving as acting health officer until a permanent replacement is selected.

Both Beatty and Ketchel had been in their positions for about two years.

Beatty was named health officer in August 2017. He is a pediatrician and preventive medicine specialist with a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University, according to the district website. He formerly worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in the vaccine industry.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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