Hornberger Hires Annapolis GOP Political Consultants for Key Cecil County Jobs, Despite Little Relevant Experience

December 10, 2020


New Cecil County Executive Danielle Hornberger may have gotten her political dream team when she installed two Annapolis Republican political consultants as members of her administration: a consultant who specializes in financial disclosures required of political campaigns to become county finance director and a prominent lobbyist and campaign consultant, who has no record of ever handling a court case, as the county attorney. But what county taxpayers will get in return for the six-figure salaries they will likely be paying for each of them is less clear.

While they lack relevant local government and legal experience. they bring in strong Republican political ties to Annapolis power brokers, especially State GOP chairman Dirk Haire, who aided the Hornberger campaign with polling in the party primary here and represented her in court when her campaign financial disclosures and other documents were challenged by outgoing County Executive Alan McCarthy, who lost overwhelmingly to her in the GOP primary.

The appointments of the two Annapolis consultants, along with several other new department heads named by Hornberger, were rushed through the County Council Tuesday evening (12/8/2020) less than 24 hours after council members first learned their names and received resumes– and about an hour or so after councilors first had a chance to meet them and ask questions during a Zoom meeting late Tuesday afternoon.

That followed a series of sudden firings of several department heads, and two ‘classified’ employees with job protections under county rules, on Monday right after Hornberger took her oath of office. The firings were conducted by Dan Schneckenburger, picked by Hornberger to be her Director of Administration, even though he had not yet been confirmed in that post by the County Council, as required by county law.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2020/12/danielle-hornberger-sworn-in-as-cecil-county-exec-schneckenburger-nominated-as-county-administrator-leads-purge-of-county-staff/ ]

Schneckenburger is a former one-term County Council member, who lost a bid for re-election two years ago and also failed in a run for County Executive against McCarthy four years ago. He replaces the veteran county administrator, Al Wein, who put in his retirement papers last Friday. It was an open secret of Hornberger’s campaign that she would install Schneckenburger in that post if elected.

Council President Bob Meffley (R-1), himself re-elected to a second council term after running unopposed on both the primary and general election ballots, hustled fellow council members to approve all the new appointees quickly and gave a full-throated endorsement of the candidates at the worksession. At the formal legislative session of the Council held an hour or so later, all of the appointees were approved on unanimous votes—except one—Lawrence Scott for county attorney—who received a 4-1 vote, with Councilor Al Miller (R- ) voting no.

Even some veterans of Annapolis political wars were surprised by the selection of the state political operatives for local government positions in Cecil County. “Don’t you have any local people up there with legal and financial experience? This could really backfire on Hornberger, bringing in out of towners, especially political people like these two,” said a veteran Annapolis politician who requested anonymity to speak frankly of politics in another county.

The new appointees are:

LAWRENCE SCOTT: Named as County Attorney (replaces fired attorney Jason Alison, first appointed by former County Executive Tari Moore)

Although he is a lawyer, Scott has never set foot in a Maryland courtroom or even “entered an appearance” in written filings to represent a client in a criminal or civil matter in the District or Circuit courts in the state, according to a search of the Maryland courts database for attorney representation. –

What he does have is many years of experience as a Republican political campaign consultant and lobbyist in Annapolis. And political links to Dirk Haire, the state GOP chairman.

His one tenure in local government, as a part-time administrative aide in the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s office, was mired in controversy, such as a Sheriff’s investigation of his time-sheets and questions of whether he was doing political work on behalf of then-State’s Attorney Wes Adams and others while collecting a taxpayer salary. (A bill, inspired by Scott’s situation, was introduced by a local Delegate in the General Assembly to ban public employees from lobby work and consulting but it died in the Senate.) Scott left that post to run Adams campaign in early 2018 but Scott’s work became a campaign issue and his former boss lost his re-election bid.

Scott’s political consulting, mostly as part of Scott Strategies– a consultancy created in 2005 by his wife, Francine– did not have a good year in 2018. All but one of the Anne Arundel candidates they represented lost. But most stinging was the loss of Steve Schuh’s bid for re-election as County Executive. Some Republicans blamed Lawrence Scott in particular for giving bad campaign advice and the upset defeat by a Democrat, Stuart Pittman. (According to state records, Scott Strategies lost its status as a business registered to operate in the state several years ago for failures to file required documents and reports to retain its legal status.)

But in 2018, one key GOP leader—Dirk Haire, the party chairman—was very happy: his wife, Jessica Haire, was the lone Scott client in the county to win her race, for a seat on the County Council in a campaign heavily financed by her husband. (Jessica Haire, who is a lawyer, joined her husband in representing Hornberger in the Cecil County court case.)

Hornberger’s campaign finance filings do not show any payments for the legal services she received from the Haire’s. Even if the services were provided pro bono they should be listed as an “in kind” donation since the case involved her political campaign. (CECIL TIMES attempted to ask Dirk Haire about his representation of Hornberger at the time but he said he had to get home to his babysitter and raced out of the courtroom.) The case ultimately went in Hornberger’s favor, with a judge ruling in August that despite evidence of fraudulent and forged documents, including her required financial disclosure statement, McCarthy did not file his case soon enough under state deadlines for such actions.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2020/08/judge-rules-danielle-hornberger-can-stay-on-cecil-co-exec-ballot-despite-troubling-irregularities-in-her-campaign-filings-finds-mccarthy-protest-should-have-been-filed-sooner/ ]

The Haires may be needing a campaign consultant again in two years, when Mrs. Haire is widely expected to make a run for county executive, a quest made more do-able since the former GOP incumbent, Schuh, is gone. In the meantime, their favored campaign helper will be collecting a steady salary in Cecil County.


JAMES APPEL: Director of Finance (Replaces Lisa Saxton, with 20 years in county financial administration, a bachelor’s degree in accounting and coursework toward a master’s degree)

Appel, who holds an undergraduate business degree from Connecticut College, has done some financial management work in state government but most of his career has been spent as a political consultant specializing in advising candidates on state election laws and filing financial disclosure reports. His big-name campaign work was for Gov. Larry Hogan’s two runs for governor, with a stint working in the state IT department in between.

He has also worked for many years with a lobbying and consulting firm, Anton Strategies, as “finance and compliance director” to advise political campaigns on state elections and ethics laws and a similar role running the GOP Compliance consulting firm since 2013. His social media profile states he was an adviser for 20 political campaigns in the 2014, 2016, and 2018 political cycles.

Since 2017, he has been comptroller of the Maryland Republican Party to oversee the party’s fiscal compliance with election laws, under party chair Haire. He has also served as treasurer of various political campaigns and is the current chairman of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee. He told council members he has no plans to move to Cecil County.

That central committee slot is no doubt important to the Haire’s, especially if Jessica looks for GOP support in any bid for county executive. Appel and Dirk Haire appeared together at a recent rally in Annapolis to demand re-opening of county schools to in person instruction, according to local press accounts of the event.

At the Zoom meeting with Cecil County councilors, he played up his recent work as a financial advisor for the Trump administration at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). But in fact, he has only held that advisory position since June, and it will cease with the apparent end of the Trump administration next month. Such a resume-boosting short-term arrangement is similar to the temporary position Trump recently gave David Bossie, the GOP National Committeeman from Maryland and a big Trump supporter, on a defense business advisory panel. Bossie and Haire control the state GOP.

Appel made a last-minute donation of $500 to Hornberger’s political campaign for the general election, on 10/19/20, according to state Board of Elections records. At that point, her win was all but guaranteed, given the significant GOP voter registration majority in the county and the shoestring, grass roots campaign of her Democratic opponent.


Other new department heads named by Hornberger and approved by the County Council are:

–Wayne Tome, as Department of Emergency Services head, to replace the retiring Richard Brooks. Tome is a highly qualified emergency services leader well known in the county for decades in volunteer firefighter circles and a veteran senior official of the Baltimore County Fire Department.

–Dave Warnick, a Rising Sun town councilman and IT worker, to replace the fired Bryan Miller as county Information Technology chief.. Warnick holds a bachelor’s degree in IT obtained after ten years of study with the University of Maryland’s University College/Global Study program for online classes.

–Steven Overbay, a Harford County resident and a veteran employee of that county’s economic development department, to head that department here. The former chief, Chris Moyer, left the position several months ago for another opportunity.

–Michele Ennis, as new Human Resources Director, to replace the fired Sally Kilby. Ennis may be last on the list of new hires but her saga as another political refugee, this time from Wicomico County, is a tale full of political drama and conflict—but that is a story for another day.

CECIL TIMES will have follow up reports on the new Hornberger administration, including the ouster of “classified” county employees, such as Jen Lyall as county public information officer and her replacement by a young man barely out of college.

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