Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Corbett Defends Education Adviser's Work amid Questions about Tomalis, Governor Says He Isn't 'Ghost Employee'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Corbett Defends Education Adviser's Work amid Questions about Tomalis, Governor Says He Isn't 'Ghost Employee'

Article excerpt

Gov. Tom Corbett is standing behind Ron Tomalis, his special adviser on higher education, maintaining that he is not "a ghost employee" and that he is working to the satisfaction of acting state Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq.

"He's not a ghost employee," Mr. Corbett told reporters Friday when taking questions during a midday event in York. "He works for the secretary of education. He reports to her. She - 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."

Mr. Tomalis has been the governor's special adviser on higher education since June 2013 after leaving the position of state secretary of education. He kept his Cabinet-level salary of $139,542 when he took the new position, but questions have arisen in the past week about how much time the governor's office required him to put into his adviser's job.

His duties in the advisory role were to carry out the recommendations of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education, which included broadening access for nontraditional students, holding down costs and creating a pot of money to reward schools for their performances.

Questions about Mr. Tomalis' work effort in the past year arose this week after the publication of a story in Sunday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that found, through documents obtained under the state Right-To-Know Law, Mr. Tomalis had a nearly empty schedule, barely averaged more than a phone call per day in the 12-month period and authored just five emails.

In addition, key players in higher education across the state told the Post-Gazette they had little or no interaction with Mr. Tomalis since he became special adviser on higher education.

Ms. Dumaresq has also supported Mr. Tomalis, explaining to the media that she started assigning him projects in the K-12 area last fall when it became apparent that money for performance funding for postsecondary schools would not be available in the state budget. She said that although Mr. Tomalis was initially permitted to work from home in his adviser role, she required him to come to work at the department headquarters after she become acting secretary Aug. …

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