- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former state education secretary who stayed on as a senior adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett quit Tuesday, more than two weeks after a newspaper raised questions about his duties and work schedule.

Ron Tomalis’ resignation letter said he has been exploring new opportunities and that his departure was in the administration’s best interests. His last day as Corbett’s special adviser on higher education will be Aug. 26.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported late last month that it found scant evidence of work Tomalis was performing in the $140,000-a-year job. The paper said over a 14-month span his work calendar had weeks of little or no activity, phone logs that averaged barely a call a day and only five outgoing emails.

Tomalis’ resignation letter did not directly reference those issues but did list the projects he has been involved with, including the governor’s schools program; a high school competition in science, technology, engineering and math; oversight of cyber charter schools; and “evaluation and potential application of” suggestions from a higher-education commission.

Tomalis did not reply to phone messages and an email, and been out of sight since the Post-Gazette story broke July 27. His resignation letter was addressed to the acting education secretary, Carolyn Dumaresq.

Corbett, a Republican seeking a second term, defended Tomalis after the story broke and issued a statement on Tuesday that noted Tomalis had been part of his administration from its early days.

“He has worked closely with Secretary Dumaresq and the Department of Education to shape programs and policies that are in the best interest of students,” Corbett said. “I thank him for his work and commitment to education.”

The Post-Gazette story said several people involved with higher education in Pennsylvania said they had little or no contact with Tomalis in his advisory role.

The Harrisburg station WHTM-TV reported that the department put Tomalis’ name plate on his office door after the Post-Gazette story broke, and that Dumaresq cited it as evidence that Tomalis was on the job.

Tomalis spent about two years as education secretary before leaving the job in May 2013.

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