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‘Ghost employee:’ Corbett aide Tomalis to resign amid allegations

By   /   August 13, 2014  /   No Comments

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

Ron Tomalis will resign from a job he may not have been doing in the first place.

Tomalis is a former state secretary of education who has worked as an aide in the Corbett administration the past 15 months making $115,000 a year.

A July 27 story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Tomalis sent only five emails during his first year in a special adviser position created for him after he resigned as secretary of education in 2013.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the Administration that I resign my position with the Commonwealth, effective August 26, 2014, to pursue those endeavors,” he wrote in a resignation letter to current Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq.

TOMALIS: Ron Tomalis stepped down as Secretary of Education in 2013 and accepted a new position as a special adviser to the new department head, while keeping a $115,000 annual salary.

The resignation won’t be immediate — Tomalis will remain on the state payroll until Aug. 26, giving him plenty of time to clean out his desk.

The Post-Gazette first reported two weeks ago Tomalis was still on the administration’s payroll, officially listed as a “special advisor” to Dumaresq.

Open records requests by the Post-Gazette turned up little in the way of a paper trail for Tomalis. He sent only five emails during his first 12 months on the job and made fewer than one phone call a day, according to records obtained by the paper. There was also no paper trail indicating he traveled or sought other reimbursements for expenses.

Since then, the Corbett administration has tried several times to explain away the situation, while spokespeople for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf’s campaign have called for Tomalis’ firing and suggested he was a “ghost employee.”

Initially, a spokesman for the department said Tomalis was not required to “check-in” with the administration every day as a part of his duties. He was supposed to be overseeing a task force addressing the rising costs of higher education in the state.

Confronted with a lack of evidence Tomalis was doing much of anything, the administration shifted the explanation. In the initial story, Dumaresq told the Post-Gazette Tomalis had a minimal email trail because “he preferred face-to-face interactions.”

In an interview with ABC-27, Dumaresq said Tomalis deletes his emails daily, in accordance with departmentwide practices.

There’s no email trail for a lot of folks. I couldn’t possibly store all of my email; we delete and cleanse each evening, so that’s why there’s no emails,” she told the Harrisburg ABC affiliate.

But that explanation raised additional questions about whether the administration was complying with state rules requiring the retention of government documents, including emails.

Katie McGinty, chairwoman of Fresh Start PA, a PAC working to elect Wolf in November, pounced on the resignation announcement and called for further investigation.

“If Mr. Tomalis honestly, fully was working in the public interest, that would not be difficult to demonstrate,” she said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “But instead of putting forth evidence of the work that he has been doing, there has been a desperate effort to cover up the situation to create a storyline around what it is that Mr. Tomalis has been doing.”

In a statement Tuesday, Gov. Tom Corbett thanked Tomalis “for his work and commitment to education.”

Andrew Staub contributed to this report.

Boehm can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @EricBoehm87 and @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric is a reporter for Watchdog.org and former bureau chief for Pennsylvania Independent. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enjoys great weather and low taxes while writing about state governments, pensions, labor issues and economic/civil liberty. Previously, he worked for more than three years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, covering Pennsylvania state politics and occasionally sneaking across the border to Delaware to buy six-packs of beer. He has also lived (in order of desirability) in Brussels, Belgium, Pennsburg, Pa., Fairfield, Conn., and Rochester, N.Y. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and elsewhere. He received a bachelor's degree from Fairfield University in 2009, but he refuses to hang on his wall until his student loans are fully paid off sometime in the mid-2020s. When he steps away from the computer, he enjoys drinking craft beers in classy bars, cheering for an eclectic mix of favorite sports teams (mostly based in Philadelphia) and traveling to new places.

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