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Utah Health Department changes communications director in wake of condom controversy

Utah Health Department changes communications director in wake of condom controversy

(Spenser Heaps, KSL)



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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health has made some changes to its communications operations, including moving long-time spokesman Tom Hudachko, who came under fire after a controversial HIV awareness campaign.

“Due to some staffing changes and reassignments, the Office of Public Information and Marketing has been reorganized, effective Jan. 29, 2020,” said a press release announcing the changes on Wednesday. “No further comments will be made regarding these changes.”

The most notable change was the replacement of the department’s spokesman — Hudachko. Taking his place is Charla Haley, who was the risk communication specialist. She’s been with the department for 13 years.

Hudachko, who was the director of communications for 12 years, was moved to communications for Medicaid.

Thom Hudachko was part of the planning committee responsible for the HIV awareness campaign featuring condoms in cardboard packaging with messages that put a risque twist on common Utah sayings, places or themes. The packaging featured double entendres and statements like, “The greatest sex on earth” and “This is the place,” and department officials quickly came under fire from Gov. Gary Herbert, who immediately stopped the production and distribution of the condoms.

In his monthly PBS news conference, Herbert said the condoms would be OK at a novelty shop in the private sector, but “government ought not to do something that many of the people think is offensive.”

He called the messaging “crass,” among other things, and added that “We went over the line in Utah.”

Still, he said, rumors about Hudachko losing his job over the controversy were untrue. He did say the decision to order 130,000 condoms in the specialty packaging was under review. While 42,000 of those condoms had been distributed by the health department, Herbert said they’d try to recover them and destroy the suggestive packaging. The individually wrapped latex condoms will, however, be redistributed to partnering agencies.

Jenny Johnson remains the health department’s public information officer, and Thomas McMinn remains the digital marketing manager.

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Amy Donaldson

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