What exactly did Ron Tomalis do in his 15 months as an adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett? We may never know.
The state Department of Education said on Monday personnel records that covered the time Mr. Tomalis spent as a special education adviser are exempt from the state's open records law. And that appears to be the final stop for the Right-To-Know request filed by the Campaign for a Fresh Start, a PAC supporting Mr. Corbett's Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, after the state's Office of Administration and the governor's office referred the request to the education department.
Mr. Tomalis worked for more than a year as an adviser to Mr. Corbett on higher education, after stepping down as the state's secretary of education to take new position. One thing he kept? The $140,000 salary he earned as education secretary.
You've likely heard about what happened since. Records released after requests from the Post-Gazette and others show Mr. Tomalis had a barren appointment schedule, a nearly empty telephone log and no travel to any of the state-run universities – although his car apparently made regular trips to the education department's parking garage.
The request from Fresh Start PA sought the employment contract that outlined what Mr. Tomalis was to do as a special adviser and any other personnel records – performance reviews, progress reports and development plans. When the education department responded last week, it said there was no contract – Mr. Tomalis rather was "appointed by and served at the pleasure of" Mr. Corbett. And the other stuff? Exempt from Right-To-Know requests, the education department said.
Reaction? Mike Mikus, spokesman for Fresh Start: "If Ron tomalis was a real employee, how is it possible that the Corbett administration cannot produce a single employment record?" And from Chris Pack, spokesman for the Corbett campaign: "Tom Wolf's campaign is seeking documents they know either do not exist or, by law, are confidential and cannot be released, to distract from Wolf's proposal to raise Pennsylvania's income tax."
And that leaves us where we were in August, when Mr. Tomalis resigned from his position: without much of an idea what he did to justify a healthy taxpayer-funded salary. We can hope that an audit by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale turns up some answers, but in the meantime, we can't help but think that the administration of Mr. Corbett could put this to rest quickly by releasing something more substantial than parking records to show us how Mr. Tomalis spent those 15 months.