ANNAPOLIS — It’s not often you hear the President of the Maryland Senate grilling an acting cabinet secretary on fashion choices, but that’s just what happened Monday night.
“If I come in with a pair of loafers and no socks on, what happens to me?” Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. asked Maryland’s Acting Planning Secretary Wendi Peters during a meeting of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee.
Peters, a former Mount Airy town councilwoman and past Republican candidate for delegate in District 4, was appointed to the post in Gov. Larry Hogan’s Cabinet on July 6.
At her confirmation hearing, it was clear that planning employees had aired dirty laundry with committee members.
Nothing would really happen if Miller committed the aforementioned faux pas, Peters started to explain.
“It’s contrary to your dress code,” Miller cut her off. “What happens to me?”
Peters responded, having already noted that the dress code in question was put in place in 2015 by her predecessor, David Craig. “Since I’ve been secretary, nothing has happened. Those are guidelines,” she said.
“I’ve also been told that a number of people have been forced out since you’ve become secretary,” Miller responded.
“Sir, that’s factually inaccurate,” Peters said.
While Peters faced questions about a heightened dress code and cubicle cleanliness policies, it was clear throughout the evening that committee members had also heard more substantive concerns.
Peters was peppered with questions about whether the Maryland Department of Planning had been adequately involved in planning decisions in Baltimore and Cecil counties and whether the department was committed to anti-sprawl planning priorities put in place under former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration. The committee chairman, Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, asked why the department had scrubbed from its website a document library, and Sen. James “Ed” DeGrange, D-Anne Arundel, asked why Peters’ 2014 campaign website was still live — complete with a button to accept donations.
“I was shocked, really, to find that you have an active campaign website,” DeGrange said. “You’re acting secretary, yet you still have a campaign asking to donate money and so forth.”
He also pointed out “new” postings, on the site, the result of Peters’ social media accounts being attached to the web page.
Peters said the website remaining live was an oversight — and that she has not been accepting campaign donations.
“I appreciate you calling that to my attention, and I will be sure that it will no longer exist,” she said. “... I can assure you I’m not raising money.”
As of Thursday, Peters’ website redirects to an error page that says the site “will be back in 0 days 0 hours 0 minutes and 0 seconds.”
Peters did find some support during the hearing.
As is customary, the senator who Peters is represented by — in this case Frederick County Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4 — introduced her to the committee. He outlined Peters’ history on Mount Airy’s Board of Appeals and Planning Commission and town council, as well as her work as the town’s zoning administrator and economic development liaison. Hough also passed along a package of recommendation letters to committee members.
Peters found some support on the committee as well from Sen. James Mathias, D-Eastern Shore, and Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, R-Harford.
Peters is perhaps the most high-profile of several Frederick County residents seeking confirmation by the Senate this year.
Two nominees to the Frederick Community College Board of Trustees — Nick Diaz and John Molesworth — are up for consideration. District Court Judge Dino Flores was already confirmed by the Senate earlier this session.
Other Frederick County nominees include appointments to the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, University System of Maryland Board of Regents, Maryland School for the Deaf Board of Trustees and Maryland Economic Development Commission.
Hogan, Hollywood tackle heroin
Gov. Larry Hogan got a little help from a once-familiar face around the State House.
Actor Michael Kelly — known for his role as Doug Stamper in the Netflix political thriller “House of Cards” — joined the governor to film a public service announcement called “Before it’s too Late” to warn of heroin and opioid addiction.
The State House, of course, served as a stand-in for the U.S. Capitol when the series was filmed in Maryland.