Skirting the Senate: A Look at Hogan’s Questionable Cabinet Appointments

Last month, we brought you an inside look into Governor Larry Hogan’s practice of appointing under-qualified, Republican insiders to Maryland’s courts.  In addition to appointing judges, the governor also has the authority to appoint state cabinet members at his discretion.  Just as he has done with our courts, Hogan has a tendency to appoint cabinet officials with questionable credentials.

Maryland’s cabinet, formally known as the Governor’s Executive Council, consists of nearly two dozen secretaries of Maryland’s various state agencies.  These secretaries, who lead agencies ranging from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, wield power over important policy issues that affect the lives of everyday Marylanders.

Similarly to the U.S. Constitution, the Maryland Constitution checks the power of the governor by requiring that the state Senate confirm the governor’s appointments to the executive branch.  It holds that the governor “shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint all civil and military officers of the State.”  Yet Hogan has repeatedly skirted the Senate to keep his appointees in power despite their lack of Senate confirmation.  Take two of his most recent controversial cabinet appointments, for example.

Earlier this year, the Senate wisely refused to confirm Wendi Peters, Hogan’s nominee to be Secretary of Planning, and Dennis Schrader, husband of former state senator Sandy Schrader, to be Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene.  The Senate Executive Nominations Committee rejected Peters’ nomination because she is woefully unqualified for the job.  Her time working in the local government of Mount Airy, a small Montgomery County town with under 10,000 residents, could not have possibly prepared her to command the Department of Planning’s $30 million budget and 130 employees.  Despite her obvious lack of credentials, Hogan nominated Peters, who contributed money to Hogan’s 2014 campaign for governor, anyway.  The Senate did not schedule a vote regarding Schrader.  Like Peters, Schrader, too, is a longtime Republican donor who has contributed money to Hogan’s gubernatorial campaigns.  

While Schrader is certainly more qualified to be in the cabinet than Peters is, Schrader lacks any background in public health policy.  His career as an industrial engineer does not give him the experience necessary to properly lead the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In a clear violation of the separation of powers between Maryland’s legislative and executive branches, Hogan withdrew both Peters and Schrader's’ names from consideration, only to stealthily appoint them to the office once the Senate had recessed in April.  While acting as Secretaries of their respective departments despite being unconfirmed by the Senate, Peters and Schrader erroneously expected to be paid for their unapproved work.  When Maryland’s Treasurer Nancy Kopp rightly refused to pay their unearned salaries, Hogan created a frivolous position for Peters so that she could remain in state government: special secretary for Smart Growth.  If Hogan doesn’t get what he wants, he finds loopholes and creates his own self-serving rules.

Governor Hogan prefers to appoint Republican insiders with limited or irrelevant credentials rather than any of the plenty of qualified, experienced Marylanders eager to serve our state.  Maryland cannot afford another four years of Hogan as governor, and it certainly cannot afford another four years of subpar state cabinet officials.

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