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Peters, Schrader moved to new posts as legal battle continues

Two embattled state appointees have been reassigned in an attempt to restore their paychecks and resolve, at least in part, a standoff between Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic leaders in the legislature.

Dennis Schrader and Wendi Peters

Dennis Schrader and Wendi Peters

Wendi Peters and Dennis Schrader, the acting secretaries of the Departments of Planning and Health, respectively, have been reassigned in an attempt to pay the two Hogan appointees. The moves, however, do not appear to resolve a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the pair.

Peters has been appointed as the special secretary of Smart Growth, earning a salary of about $137,750 — about $1 more than her salary as a department secretary, said Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman.

Peter’s new position does not require Senate confirmation.

Robert S. McCord has been appointed as the new secretary of the department, but Mayer said Peters will answer directly to the governor and not the new secretary.

Mayer said it was necessary to move Peters because “she could no longer afford to pay for her health care.”

Peters is a breast cancer survivor who is in remission. Mayer said earlier this year that Peters would have to pay $1,800 per month for her payments.

“Anyone involved in putting her in that situation needs to take a long look at themselves because that situation is shameful,” Mayer said, adding that the blame falls on Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

“I hope Senate President Miller is happy,” Mayer said.

A spokesman for Miller declined comment.

Meanwhile, Hogan appointed Schrader as the acting deputy secretary of Medicaid at the Department of Health — a position he holds while also continuing to serve as acting secretary of the same department. The job pays $174,416 annually — the same as the salary for the secretary position, Mayer said.

Mayer said the change was an attempt to “get the man paid” by moving him into an unfilled position. Mayer said Kopp continues to refuse to pay Schrader.

Schrader has been responsible for ongoing negotiations with the federal government regarding the renewal of the state’s unique Medicaid program.

Kopp stopped paying both acting secretaries starting July 1, citing budget language passed by the legislature earlier this year.

Timothy Maloney, a partner at Greenbelt-based Joseph Greenwald & Laake who represents Schrader and Peters, was not immediately available for comment.

Both Peters and Schrader filed suit nearly two months ago in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgement  against Kopp and a court order that they be paid.

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 Sen. William C. Ferguson, D-Baltimore City.

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. Miller 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.

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 after lawmakers left Annapolis in April.

The Office of the Attorney General has said the governor was within the law in the reappointment but affirmed the legislature’s ability to block the salaries. And Kopp has refused to pay them.

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