Dr. Eric Walsh, who was been suspended with pay from his position as public health director for Pasadena, has been offered a position with the Georgia Public Health Department pending the results of a background and credentials investigation.
That investigation is likely to reveal controversial statements by Walsh that led the Pasadena city manager to suspend him. Walsh, a Seventh-Day Adventist who preaches sermons in addition to his work for the City of Pasadena, has been quoted making statements condemning homosexuality, Walt Disney (which he calls a “dark empire”), Harry Potter and the theory of evolution.
Pasadena announced today that Walsh has resigned from his position there. “We appreciate Dr. Walsh’s service to the City of Pasadena and wish him continued success,” said City Manager Michael J. Beck. “The city will now begin a nationwide search for a new director of the Public Health Department.”
Walsh’s statements came to light last month and have received major publicity in Southern California. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune has called for Walsh’s resignation. Walsh is “…not qualified to be in his position if he believes thousands of Pasadenans’ sexuality comes from ‘the pits of hell’,” the editorial said, a reference to Walsh’s condemnation of gay people.
Ryan Deal, director of communications for the Georgia Public Health Department, said the investigation of Walsh “is ongoing and is not complete.”
Walsh’s comments led Pasadena City College to rescind an invitation it made to Walsh to speak at its recent graduation ceremony. PCC earlier had invited screenwriter and gay rights activist Dustin Lance Black, a PCC graduate to speak. But it rescinded that invitation when it learned that there exist videos showing Black having sex with a former boyfriend five years ago. After the uproar over its invitation to Walsh, PCC re-invited Black, who accepted.
If he is hired, Walsh will be director of the North Georgia Public Health District. That district, which is north of Atlanta, includes Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation today criticized the Georgia Public Health Department for offering Walsh that job.
“Dr. Walsh’s repugnant remarks are incompatible with an effective public health leader,” said Michael Weinstein, AHF president. “It is a disgrace to the public health response in Georgia, a state fighting a growing HIV epidemic in which too many people are already afraid to seek lifesaving care because of fear and stigma.”