Push the correct button, win a cash prize!” That might sound like an outdated carnival game, but it actually describes government employment. Uncle Sam shelled out more than $1.2 million to pay operators to man the Capitol’s fully automated senators-only elevators over the last five years, according to reports from the secretary of the Senate.
The longer the elevator operators push the correct buttons, the more cash they win. The longest-tenured elevator operator has seen his annual salary increase each of the last five years—though non-congressional federal government employee wages are currently frozen—for total earnings of more than $210,000.
The Senate sergeant at arms office, which employs the operators, defended the presence of elevator operators in the Capitol. The operators provide services besides the obvious, the office said via email. It listed nine roles and responsibilities of the operators separate from the physical operation of the automated elevators. Many of these functions appear focused on providing a clear and safe path for senators to move through quickly, while the rest involve pointing confused tourists in the right direction or working in the galleries during Senate recesses so that passersby can still visit. The office also notes that all elevator operators are certified in first aid and CPR.
But that argument for the necessity of elevator operators is inconsistent with the sergeant at arms office’s previous verdict. When a government shutdown loomed during the spring of 2011, Senate sergeant at arms Terrance Gainer told Roll Call that elevator operators would be among the furloughed nonessential staff. Even after the Senate identified the taxpayer-funded operators as nonessential, no evidence exists to suggest that the body plans to eliminate or reduce the funding for those positions.
A House panel is poised to act against state Representative John P. Fresolo, Democrat of Worcester, with the possibility of disciplinary measures being taken by the full body within days, said an official briefed on the investigation.
The Ethics Committee is expected to recommend that the House move against Fresolo, the official said, though the severity of its recommendation was unknown Tuesday. Also unclear, because committee members are sworn to secrecy, are the charges against Fresolo.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office said in March that his office had reviewed allegations against an unnamed House member filed by a House employee and that DeLeo had instructed the committee to investigate. In April, the House voted to give the panel temporary subpoena authority.
The committee has been meeting quietly in the State House, holding one session Monday after a handful last week. Several members of the committee contacted for information said they were constrained by committee rules from discussing the matter, even with other lawmakers.