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Cuyahoga County Board of Health commissioner, Terry Allan, issues response after blackface photo surfaces

"He is fully capable of continuing to lead our agency during this time of pandemic and beyond.”

CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County Board of Health commissioner Terry Allan has issued a statement after a photo of him wearing blackface many years ago surfaced Tuesday afternoon.

"I am horrified by those truths and ashamed of myself for having any connection to the furtherance of those beliefs. Confronting youthful mistakes and transgressions from our past often causes us embarrassment, regret and pain," he said, in part. "I am incredibly embarrassed about what I have done. I apologize for my ignorance and immaturity and ask for forgiveness."

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health has also issued a statement Tuesday after the photo's release.

“In terms of Commissioner Allan’s involvement, we fully appreciate how the actions of a young person can be inappropriate and regrettable. We also understand that through education and experience, a person can change for the better,” the board wrote.

“We feel that Commissioner Allan’s leadership and work history related to community health, infant mortality, lead poisoning prevention, COVID-19 and a host of other issues illustrate his compassion and dedication to people of all races and ethnicities.”

The letter closed with the board giving Allan a message of support. “It is our feeling that Commissioner Allan has developed a sincere appreciation and sense of regret for the realities of his decades-old actions. It is also our position that he is fully capable of continuing to lead our agency during this time of pandemic and beyond.”

Allan was expected to give a statement on the matter on Friday during the county’s weekly COVID-19 press conference, but given the release of today's statement it is unknown if he will address the topic. He has been at the front lines of the county’s battle against the coronavirus, often appearing during the briefings as the pandemic has continued.

Allan has served as Cuyahoga County’s health commissioner since 2004. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Bowling Green State University and his Master of Public Health degree from the University of Hawaii.

An adjunct faculty member at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine, Allan also co-chaired the Health and Caring Investment Committee for the United Way of Greater Cleveland from 2005-2007.