ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – St. Louis’ Health Director was required to provide proof of his qualifications in front of the Rules Committee Wednesday afternoon.
The meeting came after a recent filing in federal court raised eyebrows over a question about his licensure as doctor. While under oath, Dr. Fredrick Echols, the city’s Health Director, told a judge that he was a licensed physician, when in fact he is not licensed.
When he met with the Rules Committee, Echols was required to provide documents proving he met the minimum qualifications when he was hired.
Echols has been a prominent figure in the fight against COVID-19. He was appointed by St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to serve as the city’s Director of Health. The city’s website says he is the first medical doctor to serve in the position since 2007.
Following Wednesday's meeting, Krewson released the following statement about amending Echols' title to Acting Director of the Department of Health.
“In light of the City Counselor’s recent strict view of the City Charter, Mayor Lyda Krewson, Chairman of the Board of Health & Hospitals Dr. Will Ross, and Dr. Fredrick Echols believe it is in the best interest of St. Louis to amend Dr. Echols’ appointment to that of Acting Director of the Department of Health, so as not to allow this continued distraction from the mission and ongoing operation of the Department during this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Krewson and Chairman Dr. Ross reiterate their unwavering support for Dr. Echols, and express their sincere appreciation for his absolutely sterling medical credentials, leadership, and professionalism.
Our interest is in committing our limited time and resources solely to the health and safety of residents and our continued response to COVID-19."
According to his resume, Echols went to medical school at Boston University, served as a doctor in the Navy and then went to work for the Illinois Department of Health as Chief of the Communicable Disease Department and finally to St. Louis County’s Health Department in a similar field, before coming to work for the city.
News 4 has obtained a transcript of a hearing in a federal lawsuit regarding a homeless camp downtown. As the very first question, Echols was asked by Assistant City Counselor Michael Garvin, “Dr. Echols are you a licensed physician?” to which, Echols answered “yes.”
But that is not the case. A filing earlier this month by the City Counselor’s Office, corrects Echols’ testimony, stating they are “obliged to note a misstatement in the testimony of Dr. Fredrick Echols, M.D. He is not currently licensed to practice. Due to his role in public health, he stopped seeing patients some time ago and did not maintain licensure.”
Either way, a spokesperson for the city says that Echols is more than qualified to lead the Health Department. The city’s charter says the Director of Health may be a licensed physician, but doesn’t have to be, so long as other requirements are met.
But, attorneys at odds with the city over legal authorities to issue public health orders are expressing concern that Echols does not meet the other requirements as well.
“Dr. Fredrick Echols meets the qualifications to serve in his current capacity as the Director of Health for the City of St. Louis. We are extremely fortunate, given his medical and professional background managing communicable diseases, to have Dr. Echols at the helm of the department during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jacob Long, the city’s spokesperson.
The African American Aldermanic Caucus also threw their support behind Echols and said he is almost overqualified.
"We stand in solidarity with Dr. Fredrick Echols. The man has an impeccable record. We are challenged with the fact that people want to politicize that he's not a licensed physician," Alderman Jeffery Boyd said. "And if you look at the charter, that's just one criteria to qualify for the job. He's almost overqualified."
As to why Echols did not answer the question correctly on the record, Long referred News 4 to the filing by attorneys correcting the record.
The statement was made during an emergency hearing, conducted over the phone.