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July 11, 2017

Battle Lines Drawn in Annapolis

Harry M. Covert

The skullduggery continues. There is no nice way to put it, but Maryland’s attorney general is obviously in cahoots with his legislative political brethren and sisteren (sic) continuing their determination to destroy distinguished members of Gov. Larry Hogan’s cabinet.


Apparently any manner of honor from partisan party politics is out the window in Annapolis. The bottom line in this treatise is simply the Republican governor’s appointment of his cabinet secretaries isn’t liked by the Democrat members of the legislature. Merely to make a point, they are in the majority in the General Assembly – but not in the governor’s suite.


Secretary of Planning Wendi Peters, the outstanding public servant from Mount Airy, Frederick County, has been caught up in the frenzy and it’s a shame.


When Governor Hogan was elected fair and square, he began his choices. He first named Secretary Peters to the post of deputy planning secretary on March 12, 2015, and elevated her to the top job July 26, 2016.


She is a doer, gets things done. She distinguished herself as a premier public leader in all aspects. Somehow, those political opposites like to flex their nimble muscles and prove they can create trouble.


Frederick County legislative members, Democrats and Hogan opponents, haven’t shown any support for Ms. Peters. It may be unkind to use this phrase but the locals have proved the old description as “dirty dawg Democrats.”


For Heaven’s sake, when the appointee is qualified and a proven leader, let them do the job for the good of the public. This sounds good and – to borrow another old time saying – “they’re whistling Dixie.” This was not used by Frederick’s Roger Brooke Taney, fifth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, no longer popular as Barbara Fritchie, who wasn’t known as a singer.


The latest move to hurt Secretary Peters came last week when Brian E. Frosh, the state’s chief legal officer, came up with a cockamamie opinion. He said Secretary Peters and Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader should not be receiving their salaries because their terms were not confirmed by the Maryland Senate.


Both have continued to work since the legislature went home. Peters' salary is $137,000, Schrader's is $174,000. Mr. Schrader, according to the Baltimore Sun, spent last week “negotiating renewal of the Maryland's federal Medicaid waiver, which is worth roughly $2 billion to the state.” Not bad. They’ll get their pay this week and legally.


The governor is standing firm and is joined by Comptroller Peter Franchot that both with Secretary Peters and Secretary Schrader will remain in their posts and remunerated. In all likelihood the fight will end up in a court battle sometime in the future.


Mark Schaff, Frederick County Republican leader, has this good perspective of the fight:


“It starts with the Trump derangement syndrome. Annapolis saw that Trump’s appointees were either getting denied or going through the torture of the questioning.


“Second, Michael Hough (Frederick senator District 4) led a group of senators off the Senate floor in protest for not being allowed to have more time to have discussions expanding the attorney general’s powers. (Senate President) (Thomas V.) Mike Miller stated (to Governor Hogan) that good luck getting his appointees through. They targeted Wendi and Secretary Schrader.”


Schaff added: “With Wendi's background, she is one of the most qualified people to hold that job.”


Other leaders agree that Secretary Peters is an “awesome leader.”


The bottom line is it’s galling to the opposition party that Governor Hogan is governor and running the show and has chosen top drawer deputies. One of the most awful actions by the General Assembly is its efforts to diminish the power and authority of the Governor’s Office. The answer now belongs to the voters, who ought to be angry beyond measure with the majority leaders.


It’s a good sign that Governor Hogan fights for his staff and the people. He needs a couple of fighting “henchmen,” who know how to get the “drop on the dissidents.”


Fight dirty!!! Maryland politics certainly isn’t a sweet sport.


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