Saying he had been coerced into retiring by the County Commission, Dr. Enrico Leopardi, Davis County Health Department director, Tuesday said he no longer plans to retire this summer but will stay on in his post.

Leopardi submitted his decision to the county board of health in a special meeting. After a 1 1/2-hour closed session, the health board reconvened and unanimously voted to accept Leopardi's decision to stay on as director.Leopardi on May 1 submitted a surprise, handwritten letter stating he planned to retire June 1 to pursue other interests and spend more time with his family.

But two weeks later, in another special health board meeting, attorney L. Zane Gill told the board that Leopardi's decision to retire was forced by two members of the County Commission and was not legal.

Gill did not name the two commissioners. Commissioner Dub Lawrence serves on the health board and appeared surprised at the May 1 meeting when Leopardi submitted his retirement letter.

Two days after the May 15 special meeting, Gill formalized his request to rescind Leopardi's retirement in a letter, saying that Leopardi "was pressured and coerced into announcing his resignation in the May 1, 1990, letter by members of the County Commission."

"Dr. Leopardi intends to remain in the position of director of health until such time as he voluntarily decides to resign or retire."

At Tuesday's meeting, a letter signed by the directors of 10 health departments from around the state was presented to the board saying they were "saddened and disturbed" to hear of Leopardi's resignation or retirement.

The letter, from the Health Officers' Association of Utah, points out that the commissioners legally have limited power over the board of health, which is established by statute as an independent, non-partisan body.

"Of course, each member of the Davis County Board of Health should know by now that only the local board of health can hire the local health officer or remove him for cause," the letter points out, quoting the Utah law, the Local Health Department Act.

"Clearly, the actions of the Davis County Commission went beyond the limits of their authority," according to the association.

County officials are saying little about the incident. Leopardi said Tuesday after the health board voted to keep him on that the situation "was outrageous."

In its letter to the Davis board, the health officers' association called the action by the two commissioners in trying to get Leopardi to resign or retire "encroachment on the statutory power and authority of your board of health.

"It is important to bear in mind that public health in the state of Utah and, specifically, in Davis County has, over the years, shown great progress in large part because of the authority vested in local boards of health.

"To abjure this authority would jeopardize the safeguards placed in the (state statute) to help prevent public health from becoming a politically controlled entity," the association wrote.