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New leader of Maryland Environmental Service gets OK, while reforms continue

The Maryland Senate confirmed Charles Glass as the new leader of the Maryland Environmental Service on Friday as efforts to reform the agency continue.

The independent state agency came under scrutiny by state lawmakers after The Baltimore Sun reported last August that its ex-director was paid more than $238,000 when he left to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff.

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The ex-director, Roy McGrath, resigned from Hogan’s office four days after The Sun’s first report.

Subsequent reporting by The Sun and an investigation by lawmakers revealed questionable spending at the agency, which provides public works and environmental services, largely to local and state government agencies. About 95% of its funding comes from government agencies.

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McGrath had been paid more than $55,000 in expense reimbursements after he left MES, including for extensive travel and meals with other state workers. The service’s board had provided little oversight, and multiple board members said they felt pressured to approve the severance pay because McGrath implied that the governor supported the deal.

When McGrath was questioned under oath before a General Assembly oversight committee in December, he shed little light on his activities and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination more than 170 times.

Lawmakers responded with the Maryland Environmental Service Reform Act, which reshapes the board of directors, removing the executive director as a voting member.

The act also bans the types of severance that McGrath received, limits bonuses for executives, requires training for board members in ethics, requires more transparency of board meetings, sets more oversight on certain contracts and clarifies that MES employees can unionize.

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Identical versions of the act have been approved in the House of Delegates and the state Senate. All that’s left for the act is for the bills to get final signoff in the opposite chamber.

As an emergency measure, the act would go into effect immediately.

The Republican governor also introduced legislation to make changes to the Maryland Environmental Service. His bill, which was not as extensive, has not advanced in the Democratic-led legislature. Hogan also appointed a commission to review independent agencies such as MES.

While some lawmakers have been sharply critical of McGrath and his tenure at MES, they have been more accommodating of Glass, his replacement.

Hogan appointed Glass as acting MES director last June, when McGrath left to become the governor’s chief of staff. Glass led the agency as the scandal unfolded and started making some reforms himself, including livestreaming monthly board meetings and reporting his expenses publicly at each meeting.

Glass, an engineer by training, had worked for years in state government at the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation before he was appointed to lead MES.

Glass said in a statement that he was grateful to have his nomination confirmed.

“MES is a powerful example of how talent and innovation can be brought to a state agency,” Glass wrote. “The dedicated men and women that make up the MES team are world-class. I couldn’t ask for a better team to further MES’ mission of preserving and enhancing the environment.”

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