After more than a month without pay, two Maryland cabinet secretaries have filed a lawsuit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
Maryland Planning Secretary Wendi Peters and Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader haven’t been paid since June 30, pursuant to budget language passed by the General Assembly.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) withdrew his appointments of both Peters and Schrader during the General Assembly session, only to reappoint them after legislators left the State House. Peters received a negative committee vote on her appointment, while Schrader’s nomination was withdrawn before any vote at all.
The governor’s ultimate decision to withdraw and then reappoint Peters and Schrader amounted to an end-run around the Senate’s constitutional duty to advise and consent to high-level appointments, lawmakers said at the time.
As a precaution, Democrats, who control both chambers, added language to the 2018 budget that would stop pay for any gubernatorial nominees who were reappointed after being withdrawn before a full Senate vote.
When the budget took effect July 1, Maryland State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) ultimately decided not to release payments, and her office said the salaries would not resume until the treasurer was advised that it’s legal to pay Peters and Schrader.
The lawsuit could decide the matter.
The 20-page complaint filed by Peters and Schrader against Kopp and the state boils down to one thing: “The Plaintiffs are employed and are working on behalf of the State of Maryland, but are not being compensated for their work.”
The question that remains is who’s at fault.
Hogan reappointed Peters and Schrader to their posts after he was already aware of the budget language. And the question of whether he was circumventing the constitutional confirmation process during and after the General Assembly session was well-debated in the Senate chamber.
“Like previous Executives in our history, both Democratic and Republican, Governor Hogan neither appreciates or understands the concept of divided government adopted by our forefathers and embedded in our Constitution with its carefully balanced system of checks and balances. I eagerly look forward to a resolution of this issue in court,” Senate President Mike Miller (D) said in a written statement Thursday.
Miller was unable to give further comment because the lawyer for Peters and Schrader has represented the Miller family in the past and continues to be on retainer with Miller’s law firm, a conflict that needs to be resolved before the case moves forward, he said.
Kopp (D), who is elected by members of the General Assembly and serves a four-year term, has held the office of Treasurer since 2002.
Deputy Treasurer for Public Policy Susanne Brogan said Thursday that the office does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit aims to compel Kopp to pay the secretaries’ salaries and asks a judge to rule on the lawfulness of the General Assembly’s budget restriction and Kopp’s actions to enforce it.
“The Treasurer has no constitutional or statutory authority to withhold salary checks or decline to sign salary checks for these Plaintiffs, who are lawfully appointed state civil officers,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit also alleges that the budget language violated a constitutional provision prohibiting “special laws,” meaning those that relate to particular persons or things of a class instead of a general law that apply universally.
“Because the General Assembly actually intended to discriminate against Plaintiffs by depriving them of the compensation accorded to their fellow executive appointees … the General Assembly has passed an unconstitutional special law,” the claim states.
The complaint also has a different take on the appointment process.
“The General Assembly has no authority to make or control recess appointments. This power is vested exclusively in the Governor. The budget language is an unconstitutional attempt to circumvent …. the Constitution and to unlawfully deprive the Governor of his exclusive authority to make recess appointments,” the complaint states.
Opinions and legal advice letters from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General have concluded that both Hogan’s reappointments and the General Assembly’s restrictive budget language are lawful.
The complaint focuses in part on Kopp’s limited role in accepting payroll warrants from the comptroller’s office and releasing the funds. Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office said earlier this budget year that they would process payroll payments as usual until the legal dispute was settled.
But in the most recent pay period, Franchot’s office also played a role in the lack of paychecks. His office didn’t forward warrants for Schrader’s and Peters’ salaries to Kopp’s office. Assistant Comptroller Joseph Shapiro said when the warrant the comptroller’s office submits is different from the one the treasurer sends to banks, it creates imbalances in several accounts that then take time to reconcile and correct.
He characterized the lack of warrants as “a routine administrative decision in light of the Treasurer’s decision to withhold payment to the two secretaries.”
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian Frosh said Thursday that the office is reviewing the filing.
Peters previously served as Maryland’s deputy planning secretary and on Mount Airy’s Town Council.
Her annual salary is $137,749, and Schrader’s is $174,417.
I agree with Miller and Kopp! Hogan knew that his appointees would get negative reviews because they weren't not good appointees - and he knew the language of the law when he hired them. Hogan needs to reassess and get good candidates that can be voted on and approved - and paid! Otherwise, take it out of Hogan's salary - lol!
The State didn't hire them, Hogan did, let Hogan pay them.
more ridiculous nonsense from busch and miller who have long ago outlived their usefulness and Kopp should be fired...
Wait; I thought you were against recess appointments?
Shouldn't Democrats be demanding that these two employees get paid a "living wage"?
Only if they hire them, let Hogan give them a living wage, he hired them with out appropriate approval.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.