What’s in a name plate? That’s the question at the center of the latest controversy surrounding former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, who stepped down 15 months ago but is still collecting a $140,000 taxpayer-funded salary plus benefits.
Camp Hill native Ron Tomalis was Governor Tom Corbett’s first Education Secretary.
He resigned in May 2013, but is still being paid like a member of Corbett’s cabinet, and there are questions as to what exactly Tomalis is doing to earn his $139,542 a year salary plus benefits.
His title is “special assistant to the governor.”
“He does a lot of different things,” acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq said.
Dumaresq insists she keeps Tomalis busy despite a recent report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The newspaper requested Tomalis’s calendar, phone calls and emails for the past year and found weeks of little or no activity. Records revealed about one phone call a day and just a handful of work-related emails during the 12-month period.
Dumaresq dismisses the report, saying Tomalis didn’t keep his daily calendar on a computer.
“There is no email trail for a lot of folks,” Dumaresq said. “I couldn’t possibly store all of my emails. We delete and cleanse each evening, so that’s why there’s no emails for him.”
But critics want more than Dumaresq’s word.
“What did he do and when did he do it?” asks activist Gene Stilp, who filed complaints with the Inspector General, Auditor General and Pennsylvania Ethics Commission. He wants an investigation and wants to see Tomalis’s work product for the nearly 15 months since he’s been a special advisor on education.
“What we’re looking at as possibly, possibly a semi-ghost employee,” Stilp said. “I hate to be a ghost buster, but…”
Dumaresq replaced William Harner, who replaced Tomalis. Dumaresq admits that when Harner was the Education Secretary, Tomalis rarely came into the office and mostly worked from home.
Dumaresq said when she took over she required Tomalis to come to Harrisburg and pointed out for us his office with a nameplate on the door.
“Sometimes, he’s in here too often. I say ‘go away,’ ” Dumaresq said with a laugh.
Dumaresq said that Tomalis’s salary is a lot of money and taxpayers should demand accountability.
“I think we’re getting our money’s worth. I can tell you during the time I had to do my appropriations hearings he was my lifeline. He got me through that,” she said.
But Tomalis has not commented since the newspaper story last weekend. Dumaresq said he’s on vacation this week.
“It’s time for Mr. Tomalis to actually step into the light and answer reporters questions,” Stilp said. “What is he hiding from and where is his work product?”
–Dennis Owens currently anchors abc27 News at 6:00 p.m. with Alicia Richards and abc27 News at 7:00 p.m. with Valerie Pritchett. He is a graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia where he earned a B.A. in Communications.