Here’s the rational first reaction to the news that Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff got a quarter-million dollar going away present from the state agency he had led for just four years:

What!? What??

And then: How do I get one of those jobs?

Roy McGrath, who had just started on June 1 as the governor’s chief of staff, got a severance payout of almost $240,000 when he voluntarily resigned from the Maryland Environmental Service to go to work for the governor. To the Baltimore Sun, McGrath described it as a “standard business practice.”

We don’t think so. Ridiculous severance packages are sometimes negotiated when a private business is breaking a contract with an employee it wants to get rid of in the worst way possible. But it is not standard when the employee is voluntarily going to another high-paying job.

On Monday, McGrath announced his resignation as the governor’s chief of staff.

“For me, this entire topic is simply the sad politics of personal destruction,” McGrath said in a statement released by the governor’s office.

Uh, no, it isn’t. It is the result of legitimate outrage at an egregious misuse of public money.

The sweetheart deal was approved by the board of the Maryland Environmental Service in late May. MES described the payment “as a well-earned compensation package” for McGrath “having led the organization to its best financial and operational year in our history.” McGrath had led the agency since 2016.

MES is a unit of the state of Maryland, created as a nonprofit business to manage a wide array of projects from dredging Baltimore Harbor to operating landfills on the Eastern Shore and running Montgomery County’s recycling center. According to its 2019 report, it oversaw the dredging of Lake Linganore in Frederick County.

MES receives no direct funding from the state, but most of its clients are tax-supported agencies, so virtually all of its money comes from taxpayers.

Before McGrath resigned, Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones described the payout as “truly shocking” and called for hearings. We hope that the resignation does not end up with this controversy swept under the State House’s vast rug in Annapolis.

According to the Sun’s reporting, McGrath’s severance was equal to one year’s salary of $233,647, plus $5,250 in tuition reimbursements. His salary in Hogan’s office was reported as being similar.

McGrath said that his predecessor as the president of MES received “an exit package far larger than mine.” The MES statement said the former leader, Jim Harkins, received $256,746 when he retired in 2016.

But you know what? That doesn’t really make us feel any better about this deal. It just broadens the problem.

The General Assembly leaders must find out how widespread this practice is among the many boards and commissions which populate our sprawling state government. Ferguson and Jones said the right things when the scandal broke. Now they need to follow up.

Ferguson promised action, saying: “There remain outstanding questions about the payments to Mr. McGrath and how we got here, and we must continue to investigate.”

We need to hold him to it. It may not be possible to recover this money from McGrath, but legislators should try to stop it from being repeated at any time in the future, by MES or any other quasi-public agency.

(16) comments

ImCharlie

As polarized as we are as a country, this is one area that I think everyone agrees on: We the People are sick of having one set of rules for the working class and a completely different set of rules for the ruling class. This severance should apply to EVERYONE or NO ONE - not just people with lofty titles or proximity to power and influence. We need a serious reckoning on compensation policies like this in both the public and private sectors.

HappySeller2014

This is fraud. Pure and simple.

It cannot be explained away in any other manner.

Severance payouts not simply given to folks voluntarily leaving for another job. Especially in the same governmental environment.

This was not even a buyout.

It is complete and utter waste of our taxpayer dollars.

teadoffinfrederickcounty

Matthew A. Clark, Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff, is leaving the administration to become a top official at the University of Maryland Medical System.

Clark served as Hogan’s chief spokesman through the first year and a half of the Republican governor’s term before leaving for the private sector. He then returned as chief of staff in 2017, leading the administration as Hogan won a historic re-election and then through its response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Clark, who made $198,000 last year, will become senior vice president of marketing and communications at the University of Maryland Medical System. Among other things, Clark said he’s proud of how the governor and leading Democrats forged an agreement to shore up the state’s health care system.

Roy McGrath, CEO and Chairman of the Maryland Environmental Service Board of Directors, will become Hogan’s new chief of staff. He was previously a senior advisor to the governor, deputy chief of staff, and liaison to the Maryland Board of Public Works.

McGrath served as Hogan's deputy chief of staff. In 2016, McGrath, on his own volition decided to accept an appointment to MES. Now 4 years later he decided to return to Hogan office to accept the COS position which will expire in 2 years because Hogan is term limited. Playing this type of musical chairs and lining the pockets of a roaming employee is unconscionable. If it is not illegal, it should be. And certainly does not pass the smell test. Larry Hogan is well known for lining supporters pockets. Come on 2022.

MD1756

While I'm not a fan of private sector "golden parachutes" this is much to do about nothing. There are plenty of other businesses that get their funding from governments (and therefore tax payers) and they can give their departing executives bonuses. Look no further than the defense industry. Ok we'll look further and look at some of the auto manufacturers and financial institutions that were bailed out with tax payer dollars. Many municipalities rely on companies to run their wastewater or drinking water systems which are either funded through taxes or fees to the consumers. This is not really any different.

hayduke2

I'll disagree with that opinion.

Riptide262

I always thought these golden parachutes should be subject to a 95% tax. There is absolutely no reason an organization should pay you to leave. If you move onto a better job, that is on you. If you are being removed for poor performance, you don't deserve it.

Dwasserba

Why is there an "exit package" when you choose to go? After just months he is now leaving another job? Is getting a "package" for choices you make, a career strategy?

teadoffinfrederickcounty

Exactly [thumbup]

DickD

Like I said when this was first reported; "How do I get one of those jobs?" It is a rip off of our State taxes.

ImCharlie

Thank you for posting this. I've written to the governor about this as well, asking why in the case of a voluntary resignation, almost a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars were used for this purpose. If a teacher voluntarily resigns, s/he would not receive a generous severance. The same rule should apply to everyone, regardless of title or proximity to power.

gary4books

Some years ago I went to work at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda and was paid from a grant to process casualty records from the Vietnam war into a multimedia database. This was not a GS job with security, so the standard contract had a provision for severance pay, Not so much, but it was enough to pay for my move to my next job. Severance pay can add security to otherwise unsecure jobs and I do think all who work should have that option. Why not?

DickD

This was a contract for you, it wasn't in this case. That is why not.

gary4books

OK. Did Verizon have severance pay?

gabrielshorn2013

Agreed Gary, but the severance pay should be for involuntary termination, not voluntarily leaving a job for another one, especially when the job is with the State government at the same pay.

gary4books

I do agree with you and Hay. The sum should be open to negotiations when hired.

hayduke2

Agree in concept Gary but it should be a reasonable amount, stipulated in advance and not be for voluntarily leaving a position. That is the difference from your example and this case, in my opinion.

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