Hampshire schools Superintendent David Friend signed off on Mezzatesta's professional leave.
"Whether it would be Jerry or a classroom teacher, they'd be treated the same way here," said Friend, who cited the same released-time law as Mezzatesta. "State code clearly says we can't do anything to alter someone's contract when they're serving in the Legislature."
Friend said Mezzatesta represents Hampshire County at meetings across the state and nation.
"We're talking about a guy who puts in untold hours," Friend said. "He probably averages 16 hours a day."
Mezzatesta usually gave "educational meetings" as his reason for requesting permission to go to Charleston. On other "out-of-county travel" request forms, he gave no reason.
Hampshire County school regulations require employees who take professional leave to provide documentation that they attended a conference or training seminar, and that it was related to their job. Mezzatesta provided no such documentation.
State law authorizes school employees to take off and still be paid only for jury duty or when they get called for military service for the first 30 days.
School employees may use vacation days and personal-leave days when working in the Legislature.
"I never even thought about taking two salaries," said Delegate Sharon Spencer, D-Kanawha, an 18-year legislator who also teaches at Clendenin Elementary School. "You take a leave without pay, go down there, then go back to the classroom."
State schools Superintendent David Stewart hasn't been asked to determine whether school employee/legislators may collect checks for both jobs at the same time.
In a 1991 memo to school superintendents across the state, former Superintendent Hank Marockie wrote, "There is no statutory authorization to permit the payment of legislators without the necessity of their taking personal leave days."
Most school employees get three personal days a year.
"You have to take an unpaid leave of absence," said state Sen. Anita Skeens Caldwell, D-Mercer. "You're removed from the payroll. I assumed that's state policy."
In January, Department of Education officials distributed a letter to county school finance chiefs, saying school employees who serve as legislators could be paid for noninstructional days, such as "holidays, snow days and out-of-school environment days" when schools are closed.
Mezzatesta gets 20 days of paid vacation a year, but he doesn't use any vacation days while he attends legislative sessions. He took two weeks of vacation in July, when the Legislature wasn't in session.
After the Gazette-Mail started asking questions last week, Mezzatesta alleged that Hampshire County schools finance department employee Gary Kidwell tipped off the newspaper. The next day, Kidwell learned that his job would be eliminated, effective July 1.
Kidwell never spoke to the Gazette-Mail.
Also last week, Mezzatesta and other House Education Committee members were sharply criticized after they included a provision in an education bill that would create a pension windfall for school employee/legislators.
The bill allows school employees to add their legislative salaries to their regular pay when calculating pensions. The provision would increase retirement pay by up to $9,000 for some legislators.
Mezzatesta stands to collect even more since he continues to get his school administrator's salary on legislative time.
"He's out of control," Martin said. "Somebody needs to rein him in."