Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Thursday that he has named former state senator Robert R. Neall as health secretary, replacing embattled acting secretary Dennis Schrader, who will become the department's chief operating officer.
Neall, a former chief executive of a Medicaid managed-care company who has been serving as a senior adviser to the governor, takes control over the agency after a year with Schrader at the helm. Schrader was embroiled in an ongoing battle with Treasurer Nancy Kopp (D), who has refused to pay the acting secretary since July amid legal questions surrounding his nomination.
Schrader sued Kopp over his pay, and earlier this month an Anne Arundel County judge ruled that Kopp's decision was unlawful. Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth ordered that Schrader and former planning secretary Wendi Peters, who had not received a salary for two months before getting reassigned in September, should be paid retroactively.
Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), representing Kopp, appealed the ruling. This week, the state Court of Appeals issued a stay. It is now scheduled to hear the case in six months.
Hogan said he appointed a new secretary and reassigned Schrader to allow Schrader to get paid. Hogan said Schrader provided "incredible service" despite the "unjust and appalling circumstances imposed on him."
Neither Peters nor Schrader was confirmed by the state Senate during the 2017 legislative session. They were paid until June 30, the end of the 2017 fiscal year. Kopp refused to pay them after that date, citing budget language approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly that bars paying appointees whose recess appointments are not acted on during the legislative session.
"The Circuit Court's ruling was crystal clear — lawfully appointed public servants are legally entitled to a paycheck, and the Maryland Constitution was violated when their pay was denied," the governor said in a statement. "Due to the fact that Secretary Schrader had already been illegally denied pay for six months, allowing his compensation to be delayed for an additional six months was simply not an acceptable option."
Neall's appointment takes effect Jan. 9.