The Ketchikan Indian Community’s headquarters are north of downtown Ketchikan. (KRBD file photo)
A Bristol Bay health executive fired last year after suggesting the coronavirus was a political conspiracy is now running Ketchikan’s tribal health clinic. Tribal officials say they have full confidence in the seasoned executive.
Lecia Scotford was chief operating officer for the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation until March 2020. That’s when the Dillingham-based executive emailed colleagues downplaying the pandemic and suggesting it was a political conspiracy.
The subject line read: “Do NOT PANIC.” The email said that prior health crises had taken place during even-numbered years, including Ebola, swine flu and Zika outbreaks.
“And now 2020 Corona! This is not political…….or is it????” the email continued.
Her views were swiftly condemned and she was fired soon after.
Then, earlier this year, Scotford was hired to lead Ketchikan Indian Community’s health clinic. Tribal administrator Randy Williams said Scotford was hired by a previous administrator.
He told KRBD he has confidence in her as the tribe’s health clinic administrator overseeing health care for Ketchikan’s Alaska Native community.
“Everybody’s attitude changed a little bit, right? I mean, I’ve got to admit, even mine changed a little bit. At first, we’re thinking, ‘How grievous is this pandemic that’s happening?’” said Williams. “Because it wasn’t really attacking us here in Ketchikan as much. And then all of a sudden, everybody knew what it meant. And I think Lecia now knows what it means and would have a significantly different opinion on COVID.”
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Scotford did not return phone and email messages left Friday.
Williams said Scotford is an asset to the tribe’s more than 6,000 members.
“She’s such a qualified individual for the position that we have,” he said. “And she’s so resourceful for us in the administration, that we’re going to gain and benefit from her being here with us and supporting our administration to improve the health care for our people.”
The tribe’s elected leader referred most questions about Scotford’s employment to the tribal administrator. Tribal Council President Gloria Burns said the day-to-day running of tribal government is up to the administrator.
“Tribal Council was not involved in hiring that person,” Burns said by phone Friday. “The hiring of Lecia, who comes with a lot of experience … she was hired by administration.”
Burns added that Ketchikan’s federally-recognized tribe takes COVID-19 seriously and strictly enforces mitigation measures.