By Bill Schackner and Karen Langley
It took the better part of a week, but the Corbett administration finally specified the location where Ron Tomalis, former state education secretary, works as the governor's special advisor on higher education issues.
It's his home.
Education Department spokesman Tim Eller confirmed that in an e-mail late Wednesday, four business days after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Friday started asking that agency and the governor's office where Mr. Tomalis reports to work as an advisor.
On Tuesday, Mr. Eller said without elaborating that Mr. Tomalis "works remotely and comes to the Capitol as needed." The former secretary himself was unavailable for comment but reportedly is a finalist in the search for a new chancellor for the State System of Higher Education, which oversees Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities.
On May 31, Mr. Tomalis relinquished the secretary's job for the newly created advisory post, which pays Mr. Tomalis the same $139,931 salary he made as education secretary.
Barry Kauffman of Common Cause Pennsylvania said if Mr. Tomalis wants to work from home and his supervisor -- in this case, the governor -- is okay with it, that's fine. But his home then becomes his place of work, and taxpayers have a right to know without delay where state business is being conducted.
"If he was an undercover investigator who the Mafia was looking for, that's a little different, but this is a public office dealing with and creating public policy," said Mr. Kauffman, executive director of the government watchdog group. "It's sort of a no-brainer."
In May, the Corbett administration said Mr. Tomalis was charged with implementing and reviewing recommendations made by the Governor's Postsecondary Advisory Commission. During a meeting with reporters Wednesday, Gov. Corbett declined to comment on the chancellor search and said in discussing Mr. Tomalis' responsibilities that "I bring him in and talk to him about education, occasionally."
The 31-member commission chaired by by Rob Wonderling, a former Republican state senator who is president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, issued a report on Nov. 14, 2012.