ANNAPOLIS — The Senate was poised this month to hand Gov. Larry Hogan’s planning secretary nominee a pink slip. Now, senators are aiming at her paycheck.

Hogan (R) withdrew his nomination of Wendi Peters as planning secretary this month after the Senate Executive Nominations Committee urged that the full chamber not confirm her.

Because Peters, a Mount Airy resident, continues to work as secretary despite an unfavorable Executive Nominations Committee report and the governor’s withdrawal, the Democratically dominated Senate approved language in the state budget to eliminate her salary, effective July 1.

The planning secretary’s salary is set at $137,749 in the 2017 state budget.

It remains to be seen if the removal of Peters’ salary holds up after the fiscal 2018 state budget plan goes back to the House, and then to a joint committee in which the two chambers agree on a final version.

Peters started in the cabinet-level post last July. Her nomination by the governor was subject to confirmation by the Senate this session.

A little more than a week ago, the nominations committee voted 11-6, recommending that the full Senate vote unfavorably on Peters’ nomination. That same night, Hogan sent a letter withdrawing Peters as a nominee.

Senators said Wednesday that Peters has remained in her position with no apparent changes, prompting the unusual amendment to the state’s budget.

Maryland allows a governor to make a recess appointment that is subject to a confirmation vote during the next General Assembly session.

If a recess appointment receives no vote during the session, the nominee can be reappointed as a recess appointment after the session concludes. However, in this case, Peters was a recess appointment and the Senate did not get to act because the governor withdrew his nomination of her before it was considered by the full chamber.

If a nomination is voted down on the Senate floor, the vote is effectively an immediate firing. Typically, when a nominee is withdrawn, a new nominee is put forward.

“I think, in the history of the state of Maryland, we have not seen such a situation,” said Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore city, chairman of the Executive Nominations Committee.

The language added to the state budget to cease the payment of a salary for nominees in Peters’ position — she is not explicitly named in the budget document — is necessary to make sure the committee’s duty of confirmation is honored, Ferguson said.

“Without this language, it would create a complicated constitutional problem where the governor’s withdrawal before the body has an opportunity to fulfill its constitutional duty creates a very real problem for the administration of government for Marylanders,” Ferguson said.

The Senate, in a party-line vote with Republicans opposed, adopted the amendment 33-14: “No funds in this budget may be expended to pay the salary of a Secretary or Acting Secretary of any department who was a recess appointment in 2016 and whose nomination as Secretary has been rejected by the Executive Nominations Committee, and whose nomination was withdrawn before the full Senate acted.”

Ferguson said earlier this month that the committee voted unfavorably on Peters’ nomination after hearing concerns from people close to or part of the Maryland Department of Planning who reported low morale and overmanagement in the office, along with complaints that the state’s previous planning priorities have been put on the back burner. Peters did not have the background necessary to sit for the exam to become a qualified planner and did not have experience managing a large department, Ferguson said.

On Wednesday evening, Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said Peters’ nomination was withdrawn because she didn’t get a fair hearing.

“You have a group of mainly old angry men working together to attack and demean a woman secretary appointed by the governor who they clearly don’t like for personal reasons,” Mayer said. “The whole episode ... was infused with sexism and double standards.”

Mayer said Peters continues to serve in the position. He hopes “cooler heads will prevail” regarding the amendment language when budget negotiators are working out differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budget.

Because the amendment is included in the state budget bill, it is only effective for one year. To permanently clarify the state’s language on withdrawal of executive nominees before an unfavorable vote, a constitutional amendment may be required.

Peters previously served as Maryland’s deputy planning secretary and on Mount Airy’s Town Council, Board of Appeals, and Planning Commission.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines​.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(20) comments

Sj11

She's. Not. Qualified. How is this sexism?

jill king

It is paybacks for an at will employee being let go. During that hearing, the democrats accused the DNR of gender inequality in firing although the evidence was cherry picked and it was proven that it is common for administrations to let people go. Hogan has let about a third less people go, according to the numbers in his first three years, than OMalley did.

DickD

Typical Republican, Hogan is going to have his way! There is another election coming up - soon.

jerseygrl42

Busch and Miller need a permanent vacation

DickD

Where are you going to get the votes, jersey?[lol]

jill king

This is when you wish journalists would do some research. Only one Planning Secretary in the last nine researched held the Planner license. And the office changes were putting in place a dress code and having people clean off their desk. Boo hoo... Adulting is hard. This vote was paybacks for an at will position being terminated in another department. One that asked for a hearing and suggested it was gender bias. This was a payback vote. What has happened to investigative journalism?

shiftless88

All of that "investigation" doesn't change the fact that the position requires senate confirmation and she was not confirmed.

stjohn42

And the fact that Hogan is obviously gaming the system to keep her in there anyway.

stjohn42

All available investigative journalists are currently investigating the preseident and the Clown Car cabinet. Where the Republican establishment has deemed them "out of control" and "fake news". So, I guess the value of journalism changes for you depending upon what is being investigated.

jill king

I love that you feel the President deserves more press than a local representative who is extremely qualified for this position. But there is much more background to this story than reported. The democrats in the Senate committee didn't confirm her as paybacks to Hogan. They have been in a babyfit since Trump was elected, their legislative moves prove it.

FrederickFan

This how Larry Hogan wastes our tax money? $137,000 for someone who has no experience and no idea what they are doing?

Another complete waste of taxpayer money is Kelly Schulz as Secretary of Labor and Licensing who makes $158,974 with absolutely no relevant experience.

Blueline

You can not blame Hogan for the State's salary structure. Plus, don't forget the benefits/pension costs. It took many administrations, and many democrat politicians, to elevate the position to the $137K level.

FrederickFan

I can totally blame Larry Hogan for forcing the taxpayers to foot the bill for these two hires who add absolutely nothing to the Departments they are supposed to lead.

Titanman123

Wendi should do the honorable thing and just step down. How can she run a department after being rejected? I hear chick fil a is hiring...

firedupterp

If she did not have the experience to run a department of this size; or more importantly was not a planner not have the qualification to even sit for the exam to be one she should have never been nominated in the first place. Hogan screwed this one up and continues to by playing a shell game. Does this woman have something on Hogan and that is why he is protecting her???

armillary

I prefer to think that the governor simply doesn't like being told no.

stjohn42

I doubt there is anything more nefarious than "Hogan owes favor to her or some who owes her a favors". He is not creative enough to get himself in too much trouble. But instead of doing some dance to keep her in lace unconfirmed, he should just give her a different job that she might actually be qualified to perform,

DickD

Absolutely right and it is short sighted of Hogan not to realize that.[thumbup]

DickD

Good question, we all would like to know the answer to that.

armillary

I'm sure there's a job for Wendi Peters in this administration, but the planning secretary position doesn't seem to be it. The governor should respect the decision of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee and find a qualified candidate for the job.

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