State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Activist requests investigation into education adviser's work situation

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 29, 2014 1:56 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

A government reform activist is trying to get the state Ethics Commission to investigate a special adviser to the governor and former state education secretary.

The ethics complaint calls for an investigation into Ron Tomalis, former education secretary and now adviser on higher education.

Gene Stilp, also a Democratic candidate for state House, filed the complaint after The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported there was little evidence Tomalis has been an active adviser, based on schedule documents, phone logs, and interviews with colleagues.

“The official government body can look into this, if you will, the Tomalis mystery,” Stilp said. “Is he or is he not a ghost employee? And how come the governor hasn’t been keeping better track of this fellow?”

The state Ethics Commission could take a couple of months to respond to Stilp’s complaint. But it’s not clear how the complaint would prompt even an initial inquiry. The Post-Gazette report does not suggest that Tomalis has violated the state Ethics Act, which prohibits things like conflicts of interest and improper influence.

“If someone’s just a lousy employee, that is not one of the restricted activities under the Ethics Act,” said Rob Caruso, executive director of the state Ethics Commission.

Tomalis resigned as secretary of education last year. At the time, people within the governor’s office said they were seeking someone more suited to selling the administration’s education policies.

But Tomalis was kept on as an adviser, with no change to his $139,542 salary. The Department of Education told the Post-Gazette that Tomalis is working.

Edit: This post has been updated to reflect that Tomalis' salary is $139,542, not $139,931, as previously reported. 

Published in State House Sound Bites

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