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Justice

Prosecutors: Governor’s Former Chief of Staff Falsified Memo to Hogan About Severance Payment

Roy McGrath, then Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s chief of staff, at a conference call of the governor’s Cabinet in the Maryland State House in June 2020. Photo by the Executive Office of the Governor/Flickr.

A superseding indictment from a federal grand jury alleges that Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s former chief of staff forged a “memorandum” from the governor that “approved” a six-figure severance payment from a quasi-government state agency.

The superseding indictment against Roy McGrath, 52, was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday evening. He was originally indicted in October 2021.

McGrath’s tenure as Hogan’s top aide ended abruptly in August 2020, after just 11 weeks, following media reports that he received a $233,647 severance when he voluntarily stepped down as head of the Maryland Environmental Service to work for the governor. McGrath, who faces charges in state and federal court, has been accused of misleading state officials, including Hogan, and Maryland Environmental Service board members about the terms of his severance deal. McGrath previously maintained that Hogan signed off on his payment before he became chief of staff, which the governor denied.

In an additional count added to the federal indictment against him, McGrath is charged with knowingly falsifying a government document. His attorney could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

According to prosecutors, after press accounts of his severance payment, McGrath created a “memorandum” to the governor which referenced a salary of $233,647.23, and a severance package from MES.

The allegedly false memorandum included a blue check mark, as characteristically used by Hogan, in an “approved” box, creating the illusion that the governor had seen and approved the memorandum.

The memorandum was also backdated to May 18, 2020, which the indictment alleges was the date McGrath interviewed for the chief of staff position.

Read the full superseding indictment here.

The superseding indictment also included one additional count of wire fraud, related to a May 27, 2020, text message McGrath sent to a member of the Maryland Environmental Service Board of Directors in which he assured the board member the governor was aware of the severance payment.

On Tuesday evening, Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said the new charge was not a surprise.

“This comes as no surprise to us, and we thank the US Attorney’s office for its continued diligence in the case,” Ricci wrote in an email.

McGrath, through a statement from his lawyer, Joseph Murtha, continued to assert that the memorandum was real.

“Mr. McGrath firmly stands by the fact that Governor Hogan formally approved of his compensation from Maryland Environmental Service, and sadly, turned his back on Mr. McGrath to avoid the political fall out of his decision,” Murtha wrote Wednesday morning.

With the additional charges, McGrath faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each of the five counts of wire fraud; a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for each of two counts of embezzling funds from an organization receiving more than $10,000 in federal benefits; and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for the charge of falsifying a document.

McGrath also faces pending state criminal charges relating to alleged illegally recorded private conversations involving senior state officials without their permission during his employment at MES and as chief of staff.

“Honesty and integrity are essential elements of a public servant and those who operate in public trust,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Phil Selden. “Together with our federal and state partners, our office will continue to investigate and prosecute public officials who attempt to violate their trusted positions.”

U.S. Attorney Erek Barron, a former state legislator from Prince George’s County, has recused himself from the case. As a state delegate, Barron was the House co-chair of the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight, which started a formal legislative probe of the environmental service in 2020.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Wednesday to include a statement from Roy McGrath’s attorney.