Frank DeFilippo: McGrath’s Payout, City Hall Reshuffling and Other Mysteries of Md. Politics

Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

Whom the gods would destroy they first assign Beth Wojton as their deputy. Or, put another way, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Sorry for the brief lapse from the age of woke and other heightened sensitivities, but that seems to be the message oozing up from the fertilizer pits of Annapolis, and for that matter, Baltimore as well.

The road between Maryland’ state capitol in Annapolis and Baltimore’s City Hall is paved with mysteries and riddles, none more tantalizing than why three municipal employees suddenly departed, and what and when Gov. Larry Hogan knew about the generous cash-out of his hand-picked candidate for chief of staff.

Roy McGrath was all hands-out and palms-up, a custom at the Maryland Environmental Services, he claims, where he pocketed nearly $300,000 in severance and expenses on his way out the revolving door to become Hogan’s chief of staff.

Cash in hand and business cards likely already printed, McGrath was segueing from near anonymity to arguably the second most powerful job in the state, a position from which he could knee-cap almost anyone who offended or betrayed him. But that was for a brief 11 days. Now he’s Mr. Nobody.

But on the way up, McGrath forgot that one day he might be on the way down and maybe out, and Wojton would be waiting, laughing, at the legislative funhouse entrance.

Frank
Frank A. DeFilippo

She had been McGrath’s deputy and she had been passed over for the top job in favor of a Hogan recruit to succeed McGrath. Wojton told tales of McGrath’s abuse of underlings, his humiliation of women, of his unchecked spending of agency funds and of his expensive junkets to far-away lands, even lunching frequently on the MES’s dime. In short, to read into her testimony, he was a lousy boss.

The MES is a quasi-state agency, one of those amorphous entities that has the state seal of approval but earns its funding through contracts with local governments on environmental problems and solutions. McGrath has argued that MES resembles a private company more than a government agency, and thus he was entitled to a lavish farewell gift, similar to those his predecessors received.

A swatch of emails, and snippets of conversations, reveal that McGrath attempted to show that his platinum parachute had the approval of Hogan. Hogan’s response seemed to be: Huh? When that gambit failed, McGrath appealed to Hogan for help and support. What McGrath got instead was a governor’s order for an investigation and a separate legislative probe.

Meantime, up the road about 35 miles, Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young is mum on what’s happening under the municipal dome — personnel matters and privacy issues and the rest of the bureaucratic shuffle. Young was defeated in the primary.

But what we do know is that Michael Braverman, the city’s housing director, was let go. Braverman says he doesn’t know why, and, so far, the public doesn’t either. You know, personnel matters.

Here’s the cropper, almost as good as the McGrath Ponzi scheme. Henrietta Taylor, the former deputy comptroller, through some modern alchemy, had, briefly, become the city’s third highest paid employee.

Taylor’s contracted salary was $172,000. After she was dispatched for unauthorized document shredding, she continued to collect her salary and was paid about $350,000. Nice work if you can get it.

The documents were being shredded while the comptroller’s office is under federal investigation, according to reports. That would be the very same comptroller’s office of Joan Pratt, who was defeated in the primary and is on her way out.

And while that bit of legerdemain was underway, over at the city’s Department of General Services, the city overpaid a towing company by $130,000 in overbilling for nearly five years. It is said that the supervisor merely signed off on the bills without question. Yup. And the moon is made of Gorgonzola.

But wait! There’s more. Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore state’s attorney, is getting a hard look for her travels out of the country and — coincidentally — her establishment of a private business, notably — enjoy the irony — a travel and legal consulting business, Mahogany Elite Enterprises LLC.

According to reporting in Baltimore Brew, Mosby was absent from her office for at total of nearly three months in 2018-19 while she was off galivanting on 23 different trips that took her to Berlin, Lisbon, Edinburgh, Africa, nearly a dozen states and other points on the compass. She was reimbursed more than $30,000 in expenses, according to the reports. Mosby’s annual salary is $238,772. Mosby’s husband, Del. Nick Mosby, is likely the next City Council president.

Mosby has asked the city’s inspector general for a quick review of her travel and her new private business venture to make certain they pass the smell test. Mosby has refused to make public the appropriate documents, according to reports. There’s an investigation underway, and, you know, privacy rules.

What Mosby might have forgotten is that it was just such a travel business that precipitated the decline and fall and ultimate crack-up of former Baltimore Comptroller Jackie McLean – though there is no suggestion or connection between the two.

Elected comptroller in 1991 after the surprise win of a City Council seat four years earlier, McLean was co-owner of a family travel agency, Four Seas and Seven Winds. She arranged a $1 million municipal lease of the Federal Hill building.

She also placed a phantom employee on the city payroll through which she collected thousands in taxpayer dollars. She was eventually indicted on charges of fraud to which she pleaded guilty.

In another of those toothsome twists, the city’s inspector general, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, was a part of the state special prosecutor’s team that investigated and indicted McLean.

Baltimore is still catching its breath from Former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” scandal when, lo, and behold, the person federal prosecutors describe as her longtime “bagman” suddenly surfaced for an orange jump-suit fitting.

Gary Brown Jr., whom prosecutors accused of an “eight-year pattern of non-stop criminality” ran Pugh’s $860,000 scam in which she sold and-re-sold the same pile of self-published books to entities doing business with the city and state.

Prosecutors recommended that Brown serve nearly three years — about the same as Pugh is currently serving — for his role in the Ponzi scheme. Brown held the title of deputy director of special events in the mayor’s office. The publication of “Healthy Holly” was, indeed, a special event.