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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Treasurer won’t pay Hogan appointees Peters and Schrader


Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader and Planning Secretary Wendi Peters

Paychecks for two members of Gov. Larry Hogan’s Cabinet will be lighter than usual next week — checks that could be their last for a while.

The paychecks for Planning Secretary Wendi Peters and Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader will reflect the loss of two days pay as the result of budget language passed earlier this year that bars both from receiving a check. The language was passed after Gov. Larry Hogan withdrew their respective appointments and touched of a potential conflict between the executive and legislative branch that could wind up in court.

A spokeswoman for state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp said Tuesday that the office will refuse to pay both for the foreseeable future.

“The treasurer’s office removed the payments from the payroll warrants upon advice of the Attorney General that the payments could not legally be made,” said Susanne Brogan, deputy treasurer for public policy. “We will continue to remove the payments until we are advised that we can legally pay the two individuals.”

Peters and Schrader earn an annual salary of $137,749 and $174,417 respectively.

Both will be paid for days that fall within the 2017 fiscal year, Brogan said.

The state treasurer is responsible for signing the checks for all state employees. The office notified the Office of the Comptroller and the governor’s office of the decision in a July 10 letter.

A spokesman for the governor called the issue shameful and vowed the two secretaries would be paid.

“The whole episode is shameful,” said Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman. “There’s a decent amount of people who should take a good hard look in the mirror and evaluate how they spent their time the last two weeks trying diligently to prevent two hard-working state employees from being paid.”

Mayer said Peters and Schrader will continue in the positions and be paid. He declined to say how or what other actions might be taken by the governor.

“We’re evaluating our options,” Mayer said.

Peters and Schrader were both appointed in 2016, prior to the start of the 2017 General Assembly session.

Both appeared before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee, which is chaired by Ferguson.

The Senate panel ultimately voted to recommend Peters not be confirmed after a contentious interview.

Hogan quickly withdrew her nomination but made no move to replace her. The legislature responded by adding budget language that would prevent the governor from paying any appointee who was subject to confirmation but did not receive a Senate vote by the end of session.

Initially, the language, which does not name any individual, only applied to Peters.

Schrader’s nomination dragged on in the Senate. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and Republican leaders in the chamber said the nominee was expected to be confirmed by the time the session closed in April.

But an irritated Hogan withdrew Schrader’s nomination, complaining that the Senate was playing games with the appointment and repeatedly delaying the confirmation process at every turn.

Mayer said Tuesday that Schrader’s nomination was held up by “an influential member of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee” who wanted a guarantee that the administration and new health secretary would block Anne Arundel Medical Center from obtaining permission to open a cardiac surgery program.

Such a program would likely compete with the Prince George’s County Medical Center.

Mayer declined to name the senator he said made the request but called it unethical and potentially illegal.

The withdrawal of Schrader’s appointment made him subject to the same budget language meant initially for Peters.

Hogan then went on to re-appoint both.

The Office of the Attorney General has said the governor was within the law in the reappointment but also wrote that the legislature can legally block the salaries.

“So what we have here are two state employees who are legally allowed to serve,” Mayer said. “They will be paid.”

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