Settlement reached in egg sandwich dispute

It could be one of the pricier egg sandwiches ever sold. And Pennsylvania taxpayers foot the bill.

A long-running court battle between a Harrisburg restaurant owner and a former member of Gov. Corbett's cabinet over the preparation of an egg sandwich ended with a $75,000 settlement.

The settlement resolving a two-year-old lawsuit filed by Richard M. Hanna against the Commonwealth and then Health Secretary Eli Avila, was reached in December, but it was only made public last month after the state failed to pay up, according to court documents.

A court filing dated March 28 indicates the case was settled.

In a brief interview Tuesday Hanna said he was barred by the terms of the settlement from discussing any details of the case with the media. Corbett spokesman, Jay Pagni, referred calls to the attorney general's office which defended Avila. A spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane said he would look into it.

In 2012 Hanna, the owner of Roxy's Cafe near the Capitol, sued Avila for abuse of authority stemming from an altercation at Hanna's diner.

During the early 2011 incident, which came shortly after he joined Corbett's cabinet, Avila complained about the freshness of eggs used by Hanna for Avila's sandwich.

Hanna told the Inquirer Avila said at one point, "Do you know who I am? I am the secretary of health."

Avila later directed an aide to call the city's health department, which sent inspectors to Roxy's. He also e-mailed another cabinet official who was involved in picking a vendor to run the Capitol cafeteria. One of the bidders was Roxy's owner, Hanna. In the e-mail, Avila said he had seen evidence of unsafe standards at the diner and did not believe Hanna should get the contract.

Hanna sued Avila and the state, claiming the health secretary tried to block him from getting the contract as retaliation for the egg-sandwich incident. Avila denied that.

Hanna originally sought more than $500,000 in damages. The settlement does not constitute any "liability, fault or wrongdoing" on the part of Avila or the Commonwealth, the document said.

Avila's tenure as health secretary was marked by several unusual episodes including his ordering of special "Department of Health" windbreakers and badges for himself and his staff, and a confrontation over a bloodmobile blocking his parking space behind the Capitol.

A physician and attorney, Avila resigned from his state post in Oct. 2012 to spend more time with his family in the Albany, NY area. Corbett, in a statement at the time, called the secretary "an asset" and praised his work as an advocate for children's health.

He is now health commissioner for Orange County, NY. 










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