Legislative Leaders Plan Maryland Environmental Service Reforms, Hearing

    Leaders in the Maryland General Assembly will seek to reform the Maryland Environmental Service, which has come under scrutiny after making a large severance payment to a former director who then became the governor’s chief of staff.

    Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) announced Wednesday that they have tasked two lawmakers with drafting legislation to reform the quasi-governmental agency’s board and operations. Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) will lead the effort in the Senate, along with Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery) in the House.

    The General Assembly’s Legislative Policy Committee will meet Sept. 23 at 1:30 p.m. to discuss continued investigation of the MES.

    Ferguson and Jones said that many questions remain about the tenure of Roy McGrath, who served as Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s chief of staff for 2 1/2 months before resigning in August. McGrath had been head of the Maryland Environmental Service for 3 1/2 years before leaving for the governor’s office. Policies at MES have come under scrutiny after McGrath was given a severance payment and reimbursed for expenses, totaling more than $250,000, on his way out.

    Hogan has said his office was unaware of the payment before it was finalized.

    “After in-depth hearings, strong questions persist regarding the individual who has served multiple senior roles in state government including allegedly overseeing emergency procurement for Maryland’s COVID-19 response, and serving as the Governor’s closest aide,” Ferguson said in a statement. “The Legislature has a duty to all Marylanders to investigate this issue and produce answers.”

    The Legislative Policy Committee includes leadership of both parties, and is chaired by the Senate president and House speaker.

    Jones commended the earlier investigation by the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight, which conducted hearings about McGrath’s tenure in August and early September.

    “We appreciate the work of the Joint Committee to move quickly over the past month to investigate the unseemly severance and expense payout to certain politically-connected employees at MES,” Jones said. “As long as there are unanswered questions about taxpayer funded reimbursements, we must continue to ask the hard questions.”

    The Legislative Policy Committee meeting will be held virtually and can be viewed through the Maryland General Assembly website.

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.