Director of Duval County Health Department resigns after emails published

Bob Harmon steps down 2 days after newspaper brought to light lack of transparency

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Outgoing Duval County Health Department Director Dr. Bob Harmon spoke briefly as he left the building on his last day Wednesday, a day after he abruptly resigned from his post.

His decision to resign was announced Tuesday, two days after the Florida Times-Union published emails that showed the agency was either slow or unwilling to release information regarding the city's tuberculosis outbreak.

"There are a lot of reasons, but it's something I've been thinking about for some time," Harmon said of his retirement. "I'm ready to move on, and I'm looking forward to life in the private sector, taking some time off and doing some consulting."

Dr. Bonnie Sorensen, the health director in Volusia County, has been chosen by the state to replace Harmon in the interim while a permanent replacement is picked. She said she found out Monday night she would be taking the post, the night before Harmon sent his resignation to his boss, state Surgeon General John Armstrong.

Harmon sent this statement to his staff: "After much reflection, I have decided the time has come to move on. Therefore, I am retiring from my position as Director of the DCHD effective today. I will be resuming my consulting business, the Harmon Health Group, and will continue to live in Jacksonville. It has been an honor to lead you over the past six years."

Sorensen spoke Wednesday about the timing of Harmon's resignation, so soon after the Times-Union's article Sunday.

"I think you'll have to speak to Dr. Harmon," Sorensen said of whether the article played a factor in Harmon's resignation. "I can't speak for Dr. Harmon."

The Health Department has faced criticism about transparency and reluctance to reveal information to the media and the public. Sorensen said she wants to try to improve that.

"I think Dr. Armstrong expressed that from Tallahassee," she said. "The Surgeon General said we want to improve our communication and transparency, not only about this issue, but about any public health issue."

Sorensen said she doesn't know how long the process will take to find a permanent successor for Harmon, but she said the state will begin the hiring process immediately.

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