Roxy's Cafe owner sues Pa. Health Secretary for blocking contract awarding

By Jon Campisi | Feb 3, 2012

The mid-state diner owner once embroiled in a highly publicized spat with Pennsylvania’s top health official has filed a lawsuit against the cabinet-level official accusing him of trying to prevent the plaintiff from winning a state contract.

Richard Hanna, owner of Roxy’s Café near Harrisburg, Pa., filed a complaint Wednesday in Dauphin County’s Court of Common Pleas against state Health Secretary Eli Avila.

Harrisburg personal injury lawyer Charles E. Schmidt, Jr., senior partner and founder of the SchmidtKramer law firm, filed suit in an effort to “right a wrong from last year,” according to a statement on the law firm’s website.

A copy of the lawsuit wasn’t immediately available. Schmidt did not return a message Thursday from the Pennsylvania Record seeking a copy of the complaint.

According to news reports, however, the suit accuses Avila of trying to block Hanna from getting a state contract to run the Capitol cafeteria in Harrisburg.

The two had earlier been involved in a brief, albeit headline-making feud in which the health secretary accused Hanna of serving him an egg sandwich that wasn’t fresh enough.

Avila, according to news reports, allegedly responded with the now-infamous line of, “Do you know who I am? I am the secretary of health!”

About a month after the alleged incident, local news media reported, a city health inspector visited Roxy’s apparently at the behest of the health department, which said it had received a complaint about alleged unsanitary conditions at the eatery.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday that it had obtained a copy of a February 2011 email in which Avila said he had witnessed “unsanitary food practices” at Roxy’s, further stating that, in his opinion, “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.”

The email was made out to the state’s Department of General Services, which is the agency that would be responsible for issuing the contract for the Capitol cafeteria.

In his lawsuit, Hanna claims that Avila’s direct interference in the contract awarding process caused Hanna to be overlooked as one of the nine potential bidders who had desired to run the cafeteria, according to the Inquirer.

Hanna seeks $500,000.

More News

The Record Network