Former House Education Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta wants the state to reimburse him nearly $1,000 for a three-day visit to Charleston during which he cleaned out his office, said goodbye to friends, and pleaded no contest to a criminal charge in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.
Mezzatesta has requested "duty day" pay for this past Saturday, Sunday and Monday at $150 each day. He also put in for $115 in expenses for each of those days, and $192 for mileage to and from his home in Romney.
There were no legislative meetings during the weekend or Monday. Mezzatesta cleaned out his office during the weekend and briefly stopped at the Capitol before and after his Monday court appearance.
"The question is, what did he do when he was here?" asked House Majority Leader Rick Staton, D-Wyoming. "You have to do more than walk into the Capitol [to get reimbursed]. If I was here entering a plea to a misdemeanor charge, I would not turn in my paperwork."
Mezzatesta and his wife, Mary Lou, pleaded no contest Monday to misdemeanor charges that they destroyed and altered legislative computer records. They were placed on 90 days' probation and fined $500 each. The Mezzatestas took part in an elaborate scheme last summer to fend off charges that the nine-term legislator had violated state ethics law, House Education employees have told prosecutors.
Mary Lou Mezzatesta has admitted dictating a phony letter as part of the alleged cover-up. The deleted computer records were related to the fabricated letter, which Mezzatesta gave to Ethics Commission officials and prosecutors last summer.
Mezzatesta previously was reimbursed $265 in compensation and expenses on the day he and his wife allegedly deleted the House Education office computer files in August.
Mezzatesta declined to comment Tuesday, asking, "What do you want?" before hanging up on a reporter.
House Speaker Bob Kiss plans to review Mezzatesta's reimbursement requests, House spokeswoman Stacey Ruckle said Tuesday.
"He has not had the opportunity to see those forms, so he can't comment until he returns [to Charleston] and reviews them," Ruckle said.
Mezzatesta would normally be paid within the next two weeks.
Kiss removed Mezzatesta as House Education Committee chairman on Aug. 8. But Kiss allowed Mezzatesta to continue to collect extra "duty day" pay over the past three months.
Each year, the House speaker designates four delegates who may claim duty days. In addition, Kiss, Staton, House Finance Chairman Harold Michael and Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores automatically qualify for duty days under state law.