Roy McGrath, who is facing charges from his time leading the Maryland Environmental Service, abused his position at the state agency by collecting exorbitant personal expenses, improperly hiring close personal associates and arranging for an unprecedented $233,647 severance payment when he transitioned out of the job, according to the results of a legislative investigation.
McGrath spent 11 weeks as chief of staff to Gov. Larry Hogan after leaving MES in the summer of 2020. He resigned after The Baltimore Sun reported the details of his exit package — equal to one year’s salary.
He was later indicted in federal court on charges of wire fraud and misappropriation and charged separately with misconduct in office and illegally recording conversations by state prosecutors in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. A June 7 trial on the state charges is scheduled.
The General Assembly launched a probe soon after the revelations in 2020. The joint legislative committee looking into McGrath hired outside counsel, collected evidence and heard testimony in 2020 and 2021.
Lawmakers announced the results of that investigation Friday in an 82-page report detailing McGrath’s conduct and recommending that MES seek financial restitution for money McGrath and his associate Matthew Sherring spent on activities irrelevant to their jobs.
Senate President Bill Ferguson called the report “deeply troubling on all levels.”
“Mr. McGrath’s conduct and flouting of long-established rules and policies to enrich himself and loyal friends is beyond the pale of what we expect of our public servants,” said Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, in a statement.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the behavior outlined in the report “dissolves the public’s trust in our entire system of government and can never be tolerated.”
“The committee’s work to uncover this egregious behavior was the first step in rebuilding that trust, and we hope that remaining questions about Mr. McGrath’s conversations with the Hogan administration will eventually be answered,” she said.
Joseph Murtha, McGrath’s attorney, said in a statement the report erroneously depicted McGrath’s time at MES and “continues the shameful political persecution” of the former official.
“This is shameful treatment of a good man and a successful leader, who worked tirelessly to make MES a better place,” Murtha said.
The “significant financial and management flaws” detailed in the report covered McGrath’s tenure as director of the Maryland Environmental Service — a position appointed by Hogan — from late 2016 to mid-2020.
Maryland Policy & Politics
In that time, McGrath incurred at least $169,306.96 in expenses — far and above the roughly $16,000 and $18,000 that his previous two predecessors had incurred in about 11-year tenures each, according to the report.
The costs skyrocketed with McGrath’s frequent trips, including 28 days out of the office in 2018 to attend leadership conferences in places like Chicago; Madison, Wisconsin; Orlando, Florida; and Tucson, Arizona. The five-day stay to attend Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence Course in Orlando cost $9,217.39.
McGrath also surrounded himself with loyalists, known within the agency as “untouchables,” and who McGrath also directed to donate to Hogan’s political campaigns even if they didn’t live or vote in Maryland, the report states.
The jobs he offered typically were not publicly posted and McGrath was the only person who conducted the interviews, made the decisions and determined the salaries.
The environmental service is a not-for-profit, government-owned corporation that provides services such as wastewater management and recycling across Maryland.
The legislative report indicates McGrath misled officials to get the one-year severance payment even though he was leaving voluntarily and was not going to have any period of unemployment before becoming Hogan’s chief of staff. Hogan has denied McGrath’s claim that he approved the payment.
McGrath has maintained there was nothing improper about the payment, which is the focus, in part, of the federal charges issued last fall.