State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Tomalis, under fire, steps down

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 12, 2014 1:01 PM
Thumbnail image for tomalis1202.jpg

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

An education adviser to the governor has stepped down from his post, weeks after a newspaper report found little evidence he was working.

Ron Tomalis’ resignation letter includes a list of his accomplishments as a special adviser on higher education. Those accomplishments were called into question by a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report last month that found little in schedule documents, phone logs, or interviews to suggest Tomalis had been doing much in his job paying nearly $140,000 a year.

A state House candidate called Tomalis a ghost employee, and asked the State Ethics Commission to investigate. Campaign allies of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf had planned a press conference Tuesday afternoon calling for Tomalis to hand in his notice.

“[G]iven recent events, I believe it is in the best interest of the Administration that I resign my position with the Commonwealth,” wrote Tomalis in his resignation letter.

Earlier this month, Governor Corbett defended Tomalis, saying he was satisfied with his work on university summer programs.

“He’s not a ghost employee,” Corbett said. “He works (for) the secretary of education. 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.”

Tomalis landed the special adviser position after stepping down as state education secretary last year. His nearly $140,000 salary was kept the same after the job change. He will remain on the job until August 26.

His resignation letter was released Tuesday afternoon:

August 12, 2014

Carolyn Dumaresq, Ed.D.
Acting Secretary of Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street, 10th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126

Dear Madam Secretary:

It has been a great pleasure and honor to serve and assist you, fellow members of your leadership team at the Department, and the Administration in implementing many of the Governor’s accomplishments in education. I know of your pride in the significant progress in many of these initiatives and I am extremely grateful to have assisted you in these efforts.

However, as you also know, I have been engaged in conversations with other organizations regarding new opportunities, and given recent events, 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.

In addition to serving as an adviser to you on many critical issues, notably and certainly not all inclusive, I have also appreciated having the ability to oversee or assist in the:

  • Re-establishment, after having been eliminated in earlier years, of the Governor’s Schools program, most notably the two recent additions of the School for Engineering and Technology at Lehigh University and the School for Agriculture at Penn State University;
  • Creation and development of the Pennsylvania high school STEM competition, which will bring together students from all across the Commonwealth to showcase the important opportunities in STEM-related fields;
  • Evaluation of the Department’s role in the approval and rigorous oversight of Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools;
  • Development of the Governor’s Ready to Succeed Scholarship program – enacted with this year’s budget —to provide financial assistance to middle-income higher education students in Pennsylvania; and
  • Evaluation and potential application of many of the recommendations of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education, albeit as you know somewhat constricted due to the ongoing difficulties associated with the Commonwealth budget.

Again, it has truly been an honor to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth and the Corbett Administration.

Ron Tomalis

Published in State House Sound Bites

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