Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pluto Warming

not to be overshadowed by the revelations about PA's state legislative activities... How many freshmen legislators gave out the bonuses?

House Democrats give aides secret bonuses
By Alison Hawkes, For the Herald-Standard

HARRISBURG - House Democrats have given certain legislative aides taxpayer-financed bonuses, but Majority Leader H. William DeWeese will not give any details about how much and who received the extra pay.

The secrecy of the transaction led citizen activist Gene Stilp to file a lawsuit Monday in Commonwealth Court against DeWeese, Speaker Dennis O'Brien, and acting Treasurer Anthony Wagner. Stilp said there's no proof the bonuses were not serving as illegal compensation for campaign-related work.

"When they won't release the names, the amounts, and lists and the state has been through a contentious election, there seems to me a very big question here about why these payments are being made," said Stilp. "It has to do with non-legislative work and so we will see."

The story of the "special meritorious bonus payments" first appeared Saturday in the Harrisburg Patriot-News, which obtained a copy of a letter DeWeese sent to staff bonus recipients earlier this month...

excerpt continued

Andrews also would not acknowledge recent disbursement of bonuses.

"Meritorious increments are awarded throughout the year," he said. "They could be at the end of a calendar year, fiscal year or at various other times."

Without DeWeese's cooperation, it may be very difficult to track staff compensation. Salaries of individual staff are obtainable records through written requests to the House Clerk's office, but they do not state any one-time bonuses.

Andrews declined to say whether he received a bonus.

Legislative staff are at-will employees whose salaries and benefits are not set by the state workers' contract.

Andrews described the bonus system, called "meritorious increments," as a reward when "you've done something extra." As an example of the kind of bonuses that might go out, he mentioned the policy people who would work over the next six months to craft the 47 bills in the governor's new health care initiative.

But he said it's not for campaign work.

"The House Democratic caucus understands the difference between campaign work and legislative work and we deny the claims made in the lawsuit," Andrews said.

Stilp said the public needs more proof.

"I'm looking for total openness in government and we don't have that here," he said. "Just like the pay raise and unvouchered expenses, they're circling the wagons. I don't trust anything they have to say."

On a different track, Stilp said he expects the new House Legislative Reform Commission, which meets for the second time tomorrow, to pick up the issue...


Publication: Patriot-News, The (Harrisburg, PA)
Date: January 27, 2007
Page: A01

Democrats give some staffers bonuses // Snubbed aides question tax-funded payments

It was a very good year for House Democrats. Last year was so good that some caucus employees got to celebrate their successes with a bonus check that arrived earlier this month.

The taxpayer-funded bonuses went to an unspecified number of workers accompanied by a letter from House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Greene. The letter said it "was time to recognize people like you who have consistently demonstrated your dedication."

But DeWeese apparently didn't feel that all caucus employees deserved this recognition because not all of them received one of the "special meritorious bonus payments."

He indicated as much in his letter...


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