Work record: A Corbett aide’s job duties are still in question

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Gov. Tom Corbett made a feeble defense Friday of the work product of Ron Tomalis, his special adviser on higher education. Saying only that he and acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq are satisfied with the employee’s work doesn’t explain what Mr. Tomalis is doing to earn a $139,542 salary.

The Post-Gazette’s Bill Schackner and Mary Niederberger reported July 27 that Mr. Tomalis, who was Mr. Corbett’s first education secretary before becoming special adviser last year, had a nearly empty schedule, averaged little more than a phone call per day and had written just five emails while in his current post. On the dearth of emails, Ms. Dumaresq initially said Mr. Tomalis preferred face-to-face interaction; a week later she said department employees deleted their emails each night.

While Mr. Tomalis is collecting the same salary he had as a Cabinet secretary, Ms. Dumaresq, the current secretary, earns comparable pay for heading a department which has 600 employees and a $12 billion budget and which works with Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts, four state-related universities, 14 state-owned universities, assorted community colleges and others in the field.

Can Pennsylvania, at a time when it is cutting programs to stay in the black, really afford to pay two people education secretary salaries? Particularly if one is doing the job while the other is, well — we’re still not sure.

Asked about Mr. Tomalis on Friday, the governor told reporters, “He’s not a ghost employee. 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.”

More than a year into his new job and only after it became a story, Mr. Tomalis got a nameplate on his office last Wednesday. Ms. Dumaresq even called attention to it while being interviewed last week by a TV reporter from Harrisburg.

It’s almost as if Mr. Corbett is saying “trust us” — a risky request from any politician — when all the administration has to do is show us.

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