Monday, February 8, 2016

How much does an egg sandwich cost?

... If you are state Health Secretary Eli Avila, nothing, apparently. If you are citizen taxpayer - it could be well into the tens of thousands of dollars.

How much does an egg sandwich cost?



... If you are state Health Secretary Eli Avila, nothing, apparently.

If you are citizen taxpayer - it could be well into the tens of thousands of dollars.

As it turns out Avila is being represented by a state attorney to defend himself against a civil lawsuit by Harrisburg diner owner Richard Hanna.

Hanna, who owns Roxy's Cafe across the street from the Capitol, sued Avila earlier this month, claiming the secretary  tried to block him from winning a state contract in retaliation for a now-famous dispute over an egg sandwich.

The suit, initially filed in Dauphin County Court but moved to federal court, names Avila in his individual rather than official capacity. The state of Pennsylvania is not named.

Asked why taxpayers must pick up the tab for representing Avila, Health department spokeswoman Christine Cronkright said it is "normal and long-standing administrative procedure" for state officials and employees to be represented in legal actions by the state Attorney General's Office.

She would not elaborate.


The egg dispute goes like this: last winter, Avila and Hanna had a testy exchange over the freshness of the eggs in a sandwich the secretary had ordered. The dispute, Hanna has said, ended with Avila shouting: "Do you know who I am? I am the secretary of Health!"

A month or so later, a city health inspector descended on Roxy's, acting on a complaint from the state Health Department. And shortly after the egg dispute, Avila e-mailed the secretary of the state Department of General Services, through which a contract to run the Capitol cafeteria was being awarded. Hanna was one of nine bidders for the deal.

In the February 2011 e-mail, Avila said he had witnessed "unsanitary food practices" at Roxy's and wrote: "It is my professional opinion that they should not have any nexus to food services with the Capitol. I will elaborate if you want to talk to me about the matter ."

Hanna is contending Avila "abused his power as a public official in a personal vendetta based upon personal animus," according to the suit.



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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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