Controversial Pa. state health secretary Avila quits

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HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett is looking for a new state Department of Health secretary after announcing Thursday the resignation of Eli Avila.

A news release about his departure did not indicate what Mr. Avila, who previously served as a deputy commissioner of health in Suffolk County, N.Y., will be doing next, saying only that he plans to "pursue other interests."

Mr. Avila, 51, said in the release that he looks forward to spending more time with his family, who have remained in Albany since he took the position last year.

During his tenure, Mr. Avila was at the center of a controversy with a Harrisburg diner over the freshness of an egg sandwich he ordered. He later took steps to ensure the owner did not receive a state contract.

He also raised eyebrows for using tax dollars to order a badge for himself and special jackets to identify top department officials. And Mr. Avila, who is a physician and an attorney, became the subject of a written complaint after he allegedly became upset upon finding a blood drive vehicle occupying his parking space.

In a statement, Mr. Corbett described the departing secretary as a strong advocate for children's health issues, such as immunizations, and in educating Pennsylvanians about the West Nile virus.

"We are grateful for his contributions, and wish him well in all his future endeavors," Mr. Corbett said.

The department and its 1,700 employees regulate hospitals and other medical facilities within the commonwealth.

The agency's executive deputy secretary, Michael Wolf, will serve as acting secretary until a replacement is named.


Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: or 1-717-787-4254.


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