HARRISBURG -- Corbett administration officials released several emails Friday from a Cabinet member who was forced to resign earlier this week for making a racially charged joke about another state employee.
Gov. Tom Corbett asked for and received the resignation of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan on Thursday.
According to a string of emails released after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette filed a Right-to-Know request, the controversy arose out of an email exchange between Mr. Allan and his wife, Patricia Allan, who is a state employee, discussing the Department of Environmental Protection's annual falcon banding event.
Patricia Allan was upset about the conduct of another employee and wrote, "She just shows her true colors to [redacted]."
Mr. Allan responded with an email stating: "COLORS!!!!!!!!"
The other employee in question is African-American.
A spokesman for Mr. Corbett declined to comment, saying it was a personnel matter.
Mr. Allan, 59, had been a member of the cabinet since March 2011, having previously had a career in the scrap recycling industry. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Patricia Allan, who formerly worked at the Department of Environmental Protection, now works at the Department of State.
The DCNR is charged with maintaining and preserving Pennsylvania's 120 state parks as well as managing 2.2 million acres of state forest land. The agency has about 1,300 full time and 1,000 seasonal employees and budget of about $300 million.
Mr. Allan was unpopular with environmental groups, who accused him of being secretive about gas development in the Loyalsock State Forest.
"The environmental community has been very frustrated with the way Secretary Allan has refused to be transparent about the agency's decisions, particularly about gas drilling on state forest lands," said Jeff Schmidt, director of the Sierra Club's Pennsylvania Office.
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups had been battling Mr. Allan to allow more public comment and provide more information about possible gas development in the Loyalsock, a 114,494 acre wilderness in northcentral Pennsylvania.
"The DCNR's response has been extremely disappointing. Secretary Allan did not even answer our first letter for more than five months," said a statement from Mark Szybist, a staff attorney with PennFuture, one of the groups that sent a letter to the governor's office earlier this week asking him to direct the DCNR to hold a more meaningful public input process.
"We're hopeful that this change in leadership at the DCNR signals a change in policy on gas development in the Loyalsock State Forest -- and that the governor will direct the DCNR to hold the true public input process that we have requested," said Mr. Szybist.
Ellen Ferretti, deputy secretary for parks and forestry, will serve as acting DCNR secretary.
She previously served at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and also worked as director of environmental resources at Wilkes- Barre-based Borton-Lawson Engineering.
Kate Giammarise: email@example.com, 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.