HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett fired a member of his Cabinet Thursday over an email containing racially charged language referring to a black state employee, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter.
Mr. Corbett announced Thursday morning that he had asked Richard J. Allan, 60, secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, to resign, effective immediately.
The governor did not give a reason in his statement. Spokesman Kevin Harley also declined to discuss the firing, saying only that it was a "personnel decision."
Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mr. Corbett became aware of an email that Mr. Allan wrote to his wife, also a state employee, in which he made the remark.
The email was sent over a state computer and was seen by an assistant to his wife, Patricia, who had worked at the Department of Environmental Protection but now works at the Department of State.
The full context of the email, in which Mr. Allan made a wordplay on colored, was not available.
It is unclear how the email came to Mr. Corbett's attention.
Efforts to reach Mr. Allan at his home outside Harrisburg were unsuccessful.
Ellen Ferretti, deputy secretary for parks and forestry, was named acting secretary, Mr. Corbett said in his statement.
Ms. Ferretti, a former president of the northeast regional office of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, was hired by Mr. Allan as his deputy.
Mr. Allan, a former scrap-metal recycler, was named secretary shortly after Mr. Corbett took office in January 2011.
Mr. Allan stirred controversy among environmentalists and park enthusiasts over his handling of proposed gas drilling in a state forest in the north-central section of the state.
Environmentalists were angry that Mr. Allan and drilling company Anadarko Petroleum negotiated in secret over the firm's effort to open drilling on 18,000 acres in the Loyalsock State Forest.
They said that broke with past policy in which the public was notified and given the opportunity to provide input on major agency decisions.
Two days ago, a coalition of environmental groups called on Mr. Corbett for public release of the gas-drilling proposal and a 90-day comment period, including statewide hearings.
Mr. Allan is the sixth Corbett Cabinet secretary to resign in the last nine months, following the departures of the secretaries of the departments of Environmental Protection, Public Welfare, Health and Education and the inspector general.
First Published June 13, 2013 2:15 PM