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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Hogan withdraws Schrader for DHMH post, says he’ll reappoint

The nomination of Dennis Schrader, Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent pick to lead the state health department, has been withdrawn but a spokesman for the first-term Republican said the nominee will be back next year.

Schrader, who was interviewed by the Senate Executive Nominations Committee nearly three weeks ago, has yet to be scheduled for a vote. Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman, said the governor withdrew the nomination after it was made clear that the Senate would not vote on the appointment.

“It’s no secret that the Executive Nominations Committee process, unfortunately, has been highly politicized from almost day one, said Mayer.

And while the administration is vowing to reappoint Schrader in the summer, language put into the budget by the General Assembly to deal with another Hogan appointee would prevent Schrader from being paid after June 30.

Dennis Schrader, State Department of Health And Mental Hygiene secretary-desginee. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Dennis Schrader, State Department of Health And Mental Hygiene secretary-desginee. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Mayer said Schrader’s appointment was too important to be held as a political hostage.

“We were told he was never going to receive a vote this session,” Mayer said. “The secretary is too important, too qualified, and serves too many people to be left hanging in the wind  at the whim of whatever political agenda is in favor.”

But Schrader’s nomination drew questions from some committee members who were concerned about his lack of public health experience. A Hogan spokesman last year described Schrader as a effective manager.

Additionally, most of Schrader’s support appeared to be the result of good will built up by his wife, former Sen. Sandra Schrader.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. told The Daily Record earlier this year he planned on voting for Dennis Schrader because of he relationship his wife, a Howard County Republican, had with the Senate.

“I don’t know if anyone else will,” Miller said.

Mayer vowed Dennis Schrader would be reappointed June 30.

However, that appointment could be in doubt because of language passed earlier this year in the state budget that was aimed and preventing Hogan from keeping acting Department of Planning Secretary Wendi Peters.

The Executive Nominations Committee voted to reject Peters nomination. Hogan responded by withdrawing her nomination less than a hour later in the hopes of keeping her since there would be no vote to reject her nomination.

Hogan would then be free to reappoint Peters in the new fiscal year.

But the legislature responded by adding language preventing the governor from paying any department secretary who was withdrawn before the Senate could vote on the nomination. At the time, that language only applied to Peters.

Legislators say they believe it would now also apply to Schrader.

“They might think that it does but we disagree,” Mayer said, adding that Hogan will re-appoint Schrader after June 30 and continue to pay him.

“We don’t think this will stand up to any legal challenge,” Mayer said, adding that the governor has sought advice on the issue from his legal counsel.

“We have, 100 percent,” said Mayer. He declined to discuss the contents of the advice.

It is unclear if the advice would apply to Peters. Mayer would not say if Hogan would similarly re-appoint Peters after June 30 and continue to pay her.

“Wendi Peters has the full confidence of the governor and continues to serve as acting director of the Department of Planning,” said Mayer.

When a reporter pointed out that that didn’t directly answer the question of whether Hogan would re-appoint her and continue to pay her, Mayer said: “That’s the answer I’m giving you.”

Mayer said the administration estimates there are more than 100 appointments that have yet to have a hearing before the committee. The session runs through April 10.

Mayer said no decision has been made on withdrawing any other nominations.

Schrader’s nomination is one of five that were announced as withdrawn. It is not clear if any of the others will be reappointed this summer.

Sen. William “Bill” Ferguson, D-Baltimore City and chair of the committee, informed the panel of the pulled nominations.

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