When Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s new chief of staff left his job running an independent state agency to work at the State House, he walked away with a six-figure severance package that included a year’s salary.
The Maryland Environmental Service’s board of directors approved the payout for Roy McGrath’s voluntary departure in a private online meeting May 28, according to the meeting minutes posted on its website. The salary amount is not in the minutes, and the minutes don’t offer a reason for the payment.
But state budget documents show McGrath’s position at the agency paid $233,647 a year for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Meanwhile, McGrath was headed to a job that paid six figures, as well.
Hogan brought McGrath in starting June 1 to replace Matthew A. Clark, who was paid $205,000 in 2019, according to a Baltimore Sun database of state salaries obtained from the state comptroller’s office.
McGrath’s salary as Hogan’s chief of staff is $233,000, according to Susan O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the comptroller’s office, which processes the state’s payroll. She said the figure was rounded down to the nearest thousand.
Hogan’s office declined Wednesday to comment on McGrath’s payout. Mike Ricci, the governor’s spokesman, also declined to make McGrath available for an interview.
The governor appoints the Maryland Environmental Service executive director, subject to confirmation by the state Senate.
The service’s board of directors includes five people appointed by the governor, also subject to confirmation by the Senate. The other board members are the MES executive director and three of his appointees: the deputy director and a secretary and treasurer.
No one from the agency has explained why McGrath was granted a payout as part of his voluntary departure from the board.
The current MES executive director, Charles Glass, did not respond Wednesday and Thursday to requests for comment. A spokesman for MES did not respond to messages Wednesday, nor did the board members.
Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones called the news of McGrath’s severance “shocking” and called for an oversight hearing into the matter.
“This shows a clear lack of judgment to assume the role to the closest aide to the Governor of the State. Equally troubling, however, is the role that Maryland Environmental Services played in today’s news,” the Democrats said in a statement Friday.
Board member Joseph Snee Jr., a Harford County lawyer who chairs the board’s human resources committee, made the motion to grant the severance package. Snee “expressed the appreciation of the board for Mr. McGrath’s service,” according to the minutes.
Based in Millersville, the Maryland Environmental Service is an independent agency of the state with more than 800 employees. It carries out environmental and public works projects, such as operating sewage plants and dredging waterways. MES also operates all state-owned water, sewage and trash facilities.
It operates using the money it generates from clients — mainly local governments — without being supported by general state tax dollars. For instance, it announced last month it had won a contract with Garrett County to operate 27 water and wastewater facilities in the county.
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MES also receives federal grant money. For example, in 2018, MES received $2.4 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of a partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation to buy lower-emission trucks, forklifts and tractors for use at the Port of Baltimore.
The agency’s website boasts that it “combines public sector commitment with private sector flexibility and responsiveness.” For the 2020 fiscal year, MES reported that it took in $178.7 million in revenue.
According to the minutes of the May 28 meeting, McGrath left the meeting and did not participate in the discussion of his severance. The board also approved $5,250 in tuition reimbursement for McGrath and giving him his work-issued cell phone and laptop.
McGrath’s ties to Hogan go back decades. He worked on Hogan’s unsuccessful congressional campaign in 1992. McGrath’s official state biography notes that in Hogan’s 2014 campaign for governor, he served as director of Lawyers for Hogan and oversaw early voting and Election Day operations for the Republican candidate.
During Hogan’s two terms as governor, McGrath has worked for the administration. He started as a senior adviser and liaison to the Board of Public Works in January 2015 and later that year moved to a position as deputy chief of staff. At the end of 2016, Hogan appointed McGrath as executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Hogan tapped McGrath to temporarily help the governor’s office, given his experience in state procurement and his prior work in the health care industry, McGrath said during an April 15 State House news conference. McGrath worked for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores for 18 years.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.