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Colorado health chief resigns, Gov. says

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Chris E. Urbina (Photo: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment)

DENVER — Chris Urbina, the Director of Colorado’s Department of Health and Environment, has resigned.

The resignation was announced by Gov. John Hickenlooper Thursday.

According to a news release, Urbina left to pursue other opportunities, although they were not specifically mentioned.

The resignation comes after critics accused the department of mishandling toxicology tests in criminal cases.

Earlier this week, FOX31 Denver was the first to report that an internal review of the state crime laboratory reportedly found that the supervisor overseeing the lab was often biased in favor of prosecutors.

The audit, conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, determined in March that Cynthia Burbach, the former supervisor of the state’s CDPHE lab, may have tampered with or even lied about forensic tests in court.

Leading defense attorneys in Colorado have criticized details of the report and Urbina’s leadership.

Gary Pirosko who leads the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar told the Denver Post he thought Urbina was “responsible because of the breadth of all the problems. He may not have known but he certainly should have known.”

David Butcher, who directed the laboratory services division faulted in the report, will retire on July 1.

The CDPHE has overseen major issues including environmental leaks and the listeria outbreak from cantaloupe.

“We have a great department of talented and passionate employees who are dedicated to protecting the public’s health and quality of the environment,” Urbina said. “While I am stepping down to explore other opportunities, I look forward to continue supporting the governor and the department on these issues into the future. I also want to thank the governor for the opportunity to serve the people of Colorado.”

“Chris is a true public servant and valued member of our Cabinet,” Hickenlooper said. “We are grateful for his work at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.”