Health department chief exits, cites family reasons

| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 9:38 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Eli Avila, who was best known for getting into a dispute over an egg sandwich, stepped down on Thursday from Gov. Tom Corbett's Cabinet.

Avila wants to pursue other interests and spend more time with his wife and children, who were unable to relocate and have continued to live in Albany, N.Y., since he took the helm of the Health Department in Harrisburg early last year, the governor said.

Early in his tenure, Avila reportedly got into an argument with a Harrisburg cafe owner over the freshness of an egg sandwich and shouted: “Do you know who I am? I am the secretary of Health!” He also spent taxpayers' money to outfit himself and his top aides in blue “Department of Health” jackets and at his own expense had a badge made for himself with the state seal and his job title, which Corbett's office made him get rid of, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last year.

Avila becomes the third senior member of the Corbett administration to leave in the last several months, following Corbett's first chief of staff and legislative secretary. Avila, 51, who is a physician and a lawyer, supervised the department's 1,700 employees and $1 billion budget since early 2011.

Michael Wolf, the department's executive deputy secretary, was named as acting secretary until a successor is named.

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