Maryland state lawmakers issued subpoenas for Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff and another man to appear in two weeks before a committee investigating his six-figure payout from his prior job at a state agency.
The subpoenas were issued Thursday to Roy McGrath, the former chief of staff, and Matthew Sherring, who worked for McGrath at the Maryland Environmental Service. They require both men to appear before the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Fair Practices and Personnel Oversight on Oct. 29.
The subpoenas also seek numerous documents from McGrath and Sherring.
McGrath left his position as the Republican governor’s top aide in August, four days after The Baltimore Sun reported he negotiated a payout worth more than $238,000 when he left the Maryland Environmental Service earlier in the summer.
The Sun subsequently reported that McGrath and other executives earned tens of thousands of dollars in annual bonuses, and that he was paid more than $55,000 in expense reimbursements for extensive travel, meetings and meals after he left the agency.
Sherring was reimbursed more than $14,000 for paying for an online Harvard University course that McGrath took this year.
The payments at Maryland Environmental Service, an independent state agency largely funded with local and state government tax dollars, drew the attention of state lawmakers. A General Assembly oversight committee has been investigating the payments received by McGrath, but they’ve been frustrated that he has declined to appear before lawmakers.
“The picture is not clear. We’re missing Mr. McGrath,” said Del. Erek Barron, a Prince George’s County Democrat, when lawmakers voted Sept. 23 to issue subpoenas.
In addition to ordering McGrath and Sherring to appear before the committee, the subpoenas order them to produce documents related to two dozen subjects, including McGrath’s severance payments, expenses and bonuses, as well as McGrath’s communications with the governor about his transition from MES to the State House.
McGrath’s lawyer, Bruce Marcus, declined to comment on the subpoena, other than to say: “We’ll look at and digest it over the next couple of days.”
Sherring did not respond to a voicemail message seeking comment.
It took lawmakers several weeks to draft and issue the subpoenas, as they had to find an independent law firm to handle the task. The Maryland attorney general’s office typically would handle the subpoenas, but lawyers in different parts of that office represent lawmakers as well as Maryland Environmental Service officials, a potential conflict of interest.
The General Assembly hired Ward B. Coe of the law firm Gallagher Evelius & Jones in Baltimore to assist in the investigation.
“The more the Joint Committee has looked into this matter, the more questions have emerged, and we will make sure all Marylanders have confidence in this investigation being handled in a fair and nonpartisan manner that seeks results,” Coe said in a statement.
State lawmakers are trying to unravel details of how McGrath maneuvered to get the payout for his voluntary departure from the environmental service. The former MES deputy director and three board members testified that McGrath led them to believe that Hogan approved of the deal.
Hogan has disputed that, saying he knew only generally that McGrath had financial issues to work out before joining the governor’s team.
The last time the General Assembly used subpoenas was in 2005 and 2006, during the term of the last Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Legislators formed a special committee that investigated whether Ehrlich’s team — including Hogan, who was the appointments secretary — went too far in replacing state employees with loyalists. Hogan was among those subpoenaed in that investigation, and he testified that he did not coordinate firings across state agencies.
The investigation ended without any finding of legal wrongdoing, but lawmakers eventually passed laws offering further protections for state workers.
Coe was the attorney who advised that committee, which made him an attractive candidate to assist again.
House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat who co-chaired the Ehrlich personnel investigation, said in a statement that she’s confident Coe will help lawmakers “leave no stone unturned.”
“He understands the need to get to the facts of this situation, without allowing politics to dictate the way this investigation goes,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said in a statement.
This news was included in our weekday morning audio briefing on Oct. 16. Here’s how to listen.