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State Planning, Health secretaries sue for paychecks

Rachel Baye

Maryland Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader and Secretary of Planning Wendi Peters are suing state Treasurer Nancy Kopp after she refused to sign their paychecks. The lawsuit filed Thursday is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between Gov. Larry Hogan and the General Assembly.

The lawsuit says the legislature overstepped its authority when it passed budget language this spring preventing people appointed before the 2017 session but not confirmed from being paid — aimed specifically at Peters and Schrader.

Complaint for Mandamus and Declaratory Judgment by Jamyla Krempel on Scribd

Hogan initially appointed both Peters and Schrader in 2016, after the legislative session ended for the year. Both had hearings before the state Senate’s Executive Nominations Committee this spring.

The committee voted against approving Peters, and Hogan withdrew her name before the full Senate had the chance to vote. He withdrew Schrader’s name before the committee voted on him.

Hogan then reappointed both nominees after this year’s session ended.

Doug Mayer, Hogan’s spokesman, said the governor reappointed Peters because he didn't feel that she had received a fair confirmation hearing.

"We thought it was a complete mockery of the system and that there were undertones of sexism throughout," he said. "She was completely qualified to run the agency, had just as much planning experience as the previous secretary."

Shortly after her confirmation hearing, members of the Executive Nominations Committee expressed concerns about how Peters managed the Department of Planning while serving as interim secretary last year. 

According to Mayer, Senate President Mike Miller said the committee would approve Schrader if Hogan replaced Peters' nomination.

"They're not really judging people on their qualifications," Mayer said. "It seems to be more of whatever Mike Miller wants to do on any particular day."

As for the lawsuit, Mayer said Hogan had the right to reappoint the secretaries during the legislature's recess, and that not paying them is "illegal, unconstitutional, and outrageous."

The Attorney General’s office, which is representing Treasurer Nancy Kopp, said it is reviewing the complaint and declined to comment.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.