State Roundup: McGrath Mostly Mum On Mes Payout, Hogan’s Possible Role

McGRATH MOSTLY MUM DURING PAYOUT TESTIMONY: Gov. Larry Hogan’s former Chief of Staff Roy McGrath declined to answer several questions during an oversight hearing Wednesday regarding the six-figure severance payout he received,  and what role, if any, Gov. Hogan played in that decision to dole out the cash, Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter reports.

  • Maryland lawmakers were again frustrated with more questions than answers Wednesday, as McGrath said little to shed light on a six-figure payout he received from his prior state job, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.
  • McGrath’s attorney, Bruce Marcus, said in September that his client was “willing and available to address appropriate questions and to the extent possible present a full accounting of relevant events,” Steve Thompson of the Post reports.
  • Although he answered some of the questions put to him by the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight, McGrath invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination more than 170 times, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes.

JUDGE HALTS STOP IN RESTAURANT DINING IN ARUNDEL: An Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge has granted a temporary restraining order barring the county from implementing an executive order that would have prohibited indoor and outdoor dining, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. The order from Judge William Mulford came hours before the restrictions imposed by County Executive Steuart Pittman were to take effect even after the first-term Democrat attempted to revise them to allow outdoor seating.

BPW OKs PURPLE LINE SETTLEMENT TO RESTART PROJECT: The Maryland Board of Public Works unanimously approved on Wednesday a $250 million settlement payment to the construction companies working to build the Purple Line light rail in the state’s Washington suburbs, Christine Condon of the Sun reports.

  • The agreement is aimed at resuming major construction on the light-rail Purple Line project within nine months, reports Katherine Shaver in the Post. Under the agreement, the firms will hire a new construction contractor within one year, although that is expected to take closer to six months, Maryland Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater said
  • Gov. Larry Hogan said the payment was worthwhile to keep the project moving, considering the contractor’s original insistence on being paid $800 million to cover cost overruns, Briana Adhikusuma of Bethesda Beat reports.

76,000 STATE WORKERS TO GET 2% RAISE AFTER ALL: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that about 76,000 executive branch and University System of Maryland employees will get scheduled raises on Jan. 1, after all, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The Republican governor had sought agreements with state employee unions to forego their previously negotiated raises and make other concessions, such as pay cuts and layoffs, due to the strain on the state budget from the recession induced by the coronavirus pandemic.

STATE EMPLOYEES OUTLINE COVID WORK CONDITIONS: Four state employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council 3, testified to lawmakers Wednesday about the conditions they endure as they are made to work in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hannah Gaskill writes about their testimony and Budget Secretary David Brinkley’s replies.

BPW OKs $360,000 SETTLEMENT TO 6 INMATES: The Maryland Board of Public Works approved Wednesday a $360,000 settlement to a group of six inmates who alleged in a lawsuit that the state prison system failed to provide necessary accommodations to prisoners with disabilities, Christine Condon of the Sun reports.

MORE FUNDING FOR CITY SCHOOLS SOUGHT: Parents and advocates for Baltimore City public school students in a long-running educational equity lawsuit are calling on Maryland’s top elected officials to substantially increase funding for city schools in the upcoming legislative session, Elizabeth Shwe of Maryland Matters reports.

FRANCHOT: ALLEGANY, GARRETT OMITTED FROM VACCINES: After Allegany and Garrett counties were left out of the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed throughout the state due to an apparent miscommunication, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot brought up the subject during Wednesday’s Board of Public Works virtual meeting, Brandon Glass of the Cumberland Times-News reports.

CARROLL NEARS 1,000 COVID CASES IN ASST. FACILITIES: Carroll County’s number of confirmed congregate living facility cases attributed to COVID-19 continued to climb toward 1,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, but there were no fatalities reported Wednesday by the Carroll County Health Department, Pat Stoetzer of the Carroll County Times reports.

B’MORE SPENT $16M ON COVID-RELATED SUPPLIES: Since September, Baltimore has signed $16.3 million in contracts with private vendors for masks and gloves, home-delivered meals, fruits and vegetables, and hotel rooms for homeless people, the Department of Finance disclosed Wednesday, Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports.

OPINION: COVID-19 NOT EQUALLY DANGEROUS FOR ALL: In a column for the Capital Gazette, Herb McMillan opines that before Anne Arundel County goes into a second lockdown, “we need to consider what we’ve learned about COVID-19 since the first one. The single most important fact about the coronavirus pandemic, in terms of deciding how to respond to it, is that while it can be deadly, it’s not equally dangerous for everyone.”

PG SCHOOLS MAY FACE $110M DEFICIT: Prince George’s County school officials face one of the most troublesome budgets in recent memory due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, especially with a possible $110 million deficit, William Ford of the Washington Informer reports.

PARENTS CHALLENGE LEGALITY OF STUDENT BOARD MEMBER: Having a high school student serve as a voting member on the county school board upon election by fellow pupils violates the Maryland Constitution, stated Howard County public school parents seeking a safe resumption of in-class learning amid the pandemic in a lawsuit filed Wednesday. Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes about the suit.

FOXWELL OPENS COMM SHOP: Len Foxwell, the veteran political strategist who until recently was the longtime top adviser to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), is setting up his own communications shop, Josh Kurtz writes for Maryland Matters.