Environment Agency Workers Tense, Morale Low Under Ex-Hogan Aide, Deputy Says

State legislators on Wednesday received a bleak picture of life at the Maryland Environmental Service under the leadership of former director Roy McGrath. During his time at the helm, McGrath was “guarded and secretive,” and morale was low, former MES deputy director Beth Wojton told members of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight.

MES is often referred to as a quasi-public agency. Though it functions in many respects like a business, it is an arm of state government whose workers are state government employees. Nearly all of its revenue comes from local, state and federal government for services such as designing and running landfills, wastewater treatment plants and dredging operations. 

McGrath seemed better suited to the private sector than running a government agency, Wojton told lawmakers. 

The sole witness at Wednesday’s hearing, Wojton said she worked at MES for 32 years and served under five different directors and two acting directors. She was asked to leave by acting director Charles Glass when he assumed his role in June. 

Wojton said McGrath was distant with agency staff. He frequently worked remotely, and senior staff members were routinely unaware of his whereabouts. He was particularly concerned with the agency’s image. For example, he established a rule that agency vehicles could not be parked at the agency’s headquarters unless they were washed first — a significant burden for workers who do what Wojton called “really, really dirty jobs.”

“He instituted policies and procedures that were difficult to defend or explain to employees,” Wojton said. 

He reduced the number of vehicles in MES’s fleet, forcing employees to rely on their personal vehicles for their work, she said. He banned food from their office conference room except during board meetings, effectively prohibiting employees from celebrating birthdays or baby showers there. 

According to Wojton, McGrath would not accept negative feedback, and he could be “vindictive” if things didn’t go his way.

“People were tense, always tense around Mr. McGrath,” Wojton said. “He could be very charming and very nice, but it felt like he didn’t respect our employees, and that was hard to take.”

McGrath left MES in June after Gov. Larry Hogan appointed him his chief of staff. Then McGrath left his new post last month after The Baltimore Sun reported that he had received a $233,647 severance payment upon leaving MES for the Governor’s Office. 

He also received reimbursement for more than $55,000 in expenses that he submitted when he left. Though MES policies require staff to submit expenses for reimbursement within five days of when the expenses occur, McGrath incurred some of his submitted expenses as far back as early 2019.

Read the full story on WYPR.org.

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