HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania House State Government Committee Majority Chairman, State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), has released a co-sponsor memorandum urging support for his soon-to-be introduced legislation that would prohibit any public employee from continuing to work as an employee of the Commonwealth if that individual fails to file his/her annual statement of financial interest.
“A statement of financial interest is important not only for the pertinent information relating to gifts and investments, but also because it is a statement of integrity and trustworthiness,” said Metcalfe. “Currently, if any elected member of government fails to file a statement of financial interest, that individual can no longer remain in his or her elected office. However, if a public employee fails to file a statement of financial interest, that individual is subject only to a fine, which is usually not collected until after receiving repeated taxpayer-funded notifications and racking up litigation costs.
“My legislation is intended to correct this major inconsistency within the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act.”
Under current law, state employees can receive as many as nine notifications before facing fines. If those efforts fail, the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission goes to court seeking enforcement of its $250 fine and court costs. A judge can add penalties, including jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.
Metcalfe confirmed that his reason for pursuing this legislation stems primarily from a 2015 crackdown by the Ethics Commission that cited 35 caseworkers from the formerly named Department of Welfare for ignoring requests to file yearly financial disclosure forms containing information about their employment, creditors and gifts received on the job.
According to the commission’s Executive Director Rob Carusso, these welfare case workers—who are responsible for reviewing applicants’ incomes to determine whether they qualify for food stamps and cash benefits—represent the largest group of state employees who have refused to file the forms. In total, of the 756 state employees most recently turned over to the commission for refusing to file, 273 were welfare caseworkers.
“For there to be such a blatant pattern of abuse among a specific group of public employees leads to even greater public suspicion of widespread waste, fraud and government corruption,” said Metcalfe.
“The only way to address this situation in a manner that restores public trust is to pass this legislation, which will lead to tougher and swifter penalties for state employees who refuse to comply.”
As with other legislation pertaining to the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, it is expected that Metcalfe’s legislation will be referred to the House State Government Committee.
“Taxpayers deserve the same degree of transparency from public employees as public officials,” said Metcalfe. “That is why the consequences for failure to file a statement of financial interest should be the same for both public officials and employees, to achieve the same desired outcome of transparency across all levels of government.”