For the first time in its 14-year history, a special review panel of Maryland lawmakers unanimously voted to issue a subpoena to force a former aide to Gov. Larry Hogan to testify.
The move came after Roy McGrath refused to answer questions about a nearly quarter-million-dollar severance package he said the governor approved.
“We know that Mr. McGrath took a payout that he says the governor approved. The governor says he didn’t. Both can’t be true,” Del. Erek Barron explained to the Legislative Policy Committee of the General Assembly in a virtual meeting on Sept. 23.
McGrath will have to testify to the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight.
It wasn’t just that McGrath received a payout of more than $230,000, tuition reimbursement and a transfer of some 800 hours of leave when he went to work for Governor Hogan, Barron explained, it’s that he said the governor told him it was OK.
Hogan has denied that accusation and issued a letter ahead of the committee meeting urging for a restructuring of the Maryland Environmental Service, where McGrath served as the executive director for more than two years.
In May, McGrath accepted a position as the governor’s chief of staff and informed board members he expected a payout, Barron said. However, the agency had no severance policy to base the request off of, no employment contract for McGrath, and no performance-related information to warrant a quarter-million-dollar parting gift, he said.
“Yet they gave the payout anyway. Why? Because they felt pressure. They wanted to make sure it was good with the governor’s office. They relied on Mr. McGrath’s representations,” Barron told the committee of his sub-committee’s investigation thus far.
At the start of the hearing, General Assembly Speaker Adrienne Jones said longstanding rules should have prevented such a large payout.
“Less than 15 years ago, I led a review of personnel practices within the executive branch under a previous governor and we passed legislation that should have prevented what we are here to discuss today,” she said.
Barron explained to the Legislative Policy Committee that while looking into the payout to McGrath, other concerns emerged, including lack of board oversight and excessive spending billed to the taxpayer.
McGrath left his position with the governor’s office but has yet to appear in front of a committee investigating his nearly three years as director at MES, where Delegate Marc Korman said McGrath expensed $125,000 in travel and meals.
“The travel just appears on its face to be excessive. I mean, once again as with the expenses, some of these things might be substantively valid, but when you take them together they raise a lot of questions about what he was doing,” Korman said.
McGrath expensed travel to Isreal, Italy, Belgium, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Palm Springs and Annapolis, Korman said.
“A number of overnight stays in Annapolis even though during the course of his tenure at MES, he lived in Waldorf or Edgewater, but felt the need to bill for overnight stays in Annapolis,” Korman said.
Board members admitted to the committee investigating the potential fraud that they were largely unaware of McGrath’s travel, Korman said.