Gov. Tom Corbett is defending his former Secretary of Education. Ron Tomalis left the cabinet post in May 2013 and was immediately appointed as special adviser to the Secretary of Education at the same annual salary of nearly $140,000.
But there have been calls for everything from a legislative inquiry to a formal ethics investigation into whether Tomalis is actually working to earn his pay.
Activist Gene Stilp, also a Democratic candidate for the State House, asked the state Ethics Commission to investigate Tomalis in the wake of a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that Tomalis has been particularly low-profile in the past 14 months he’s had his position.
“Has he been showing up, has he been producing work product, what exactly is going on, or is he a semi or a full ghost employee, collecting a salary of almost $140,000 a year, plus health benefits, etc.,” Stilp said.
It’s not clear what part of the Ethics Act Stilp thinks might have been violated, since it mostly restricts conflicts of interest and improper influence.
The newspaper found scant evidence — from schedule documents, phone logs, or in interviews with colleagues — that he has been very active in the post.
“There doesn’t seem to be any work product,” Stilp said. “It’s not easily identified what the work product is or what he’s been doing for the past year.”
But Corbett says Tomalis is on the job.
“He’s not a ghost employee," Corbett said. "He works [for] the Secretary of Education [Carolyn Dumaresq]. He reports to her. You’ve seen the quotes that she sees him right down the hall. He’s been doing the work. She’s satisfied with it. I’m satisfied with it.”
But questions about Tomalis are also coming from Corbett’s own party. State Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), the chair of the Education Committee, said he believes a legislative review is in order to make sure that taxpayer dollars are being well spent.