Dan Schneckenburger Replaced as Cecil County Administrator; Sudden Departure Raises Questions on Hornberger, Scott Agenda

October 21, 2021


Dan Schneckenburger, a former one-term Cecil County Council member who was installed as the county Director of Administration by new County Executive Danielle Hornberger less than a year ago, was suddenly replaced this week by an acting administrator who lives in Harford County. The sudden actions shocked County Council members and raised questions on what prompted the changes and who might ultimately be named for a permanent slot that would have to be approved by the Council.

In early morning phone calls on Thursday (10/21/2021) to members of the County Council, Hornberger stated that Schneckenburger had “resigned” his position and would be replaced by an acting administrator, Steven Overbay, the current Economic Development director. In turn, he would be replaced on an acting basis by Sandra Edwards, the second-ranking official in the Economic Development Department, sources said. Later in the day, Hornberger also sent emails to a number of officials at independent county institutions relaying the “resignation” message, sources said.

Schneckenburger was very visible over the weekend, on Saturday at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the county Farm Museum and throughout the weekend at the inaugural 5 Star equestrian event at Fair Hill that had been planned for several years and was a landmark international coup for the county’s tourism and economic development agenda. Throughout his four years on the County Council, Schneckenburger was a staunch and effective advocate for economic development, job creation and tourism expansion.

But Schneckenburger was unusually absent at the Tuesday County Council worksession, at which Lawrence Scott, the county attorney, took the lead on representing the Hornberger administration’s views on several pieces of legislation.

Despite Schneckenburger’s extensive knowledge of county issues and local residents’ concerns, he had often been relegated to a silent bystander position by Scott, an Annapolis political consultant installed by Hornberger as county attorney despite the fact that he had never set foot in a state courtroom or even entered a written appearance for a client in state courts, according to records of the Maryland courts database.

Scott, who lives in the Annapolis area, has assumed an out-sized role in the Hornberger administration, muscling aside other officials with local ties to the point where he is considered to be the Tony Soprano of the county. He was hired at a salary of $130,000, according to testimony at a Council budget session, and he also received a 1.25 percent COLA raise as of 7/1/2021, according to a Public Information Act (PIA) request by Cecil Times (His predecessor, Jason Allison, who had substantial court experience, was paid about $106,000, according to a PIA request.).

Another Annapolis political consultant hired by Hornberger as county Finance Director, James Appel, is paid $122,830, plus the 1.25 percent COLA, according to a PIA document request. (His predecessor, Lisa Saxton, who had many years of local government financial experience that Appel did not, was paid $115,090.) Both Appel and Scott have strong political ties to Dirk Haire, the chairman of the state Republican Party, who supported Hornberger’s local political campaign.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2020/12/hornberger-hires-annapolis-political-consultants-for-key-cecil-county-jobs-long-on-state-gop-ties-short-on-local-government-legal-experience/ ]

The newly open county administrator slot gives Hornberger/Scott a potentially golden opportunity to install another politically connected/Annapolis pal in a highly paid job here. According to budget documents for the current fiscal year, Schneckenburger was paid an annual salary of $149,323, plus the 1.25 percent COLA. (In contrast, his predecessor Al Wein, who had 30 years’ experience in county government, was paid $141,750, according to a PIA request by Cecil Times.)

The county Charter provides that a department head’s appointment must be confirmed by the County Council and an acting appointee can only serve for six months before the nominee’s appointment must be sent to the Council for its approval or disapproval. Overbay, the new acting county administrator, was paid $123,426 a year, plus the COLA, in his economic development slot, according to a PIA request. He was the deputy director of economic development in Harford County before being promoted to the top slot here by Hornberger.

CECIL TIMES contacted Schneckenburger for comment on his departure but did not receive a response.

While a voluntary departure, as it was portrayed by Hornberger, is possible, given other circumstances it would seem to be less likely. Schneckenburger and his wife, Tina Sharp, recently purchased a large home in the Fair Hill area, after relocating from a Florida home where they lived while he worked in business development in the Tampa area for about a year and she worked as a supervisor with the Veterans Administration in Florida. Hornberger’s comments to local officials did not specify any reason for a “resignation” or other job opportunities that might have been a factor in the sudden departure from county government.
Schneckenburger has deep ties to Cecil County, although he was a two-time election loser in county politics, having served one term on the County Council but losing a bid for re-election to his seat over two years ago and also losing a run for County Executive against Alan McCarthy over four years ago.

Even before Hornberger was elected in 2020, it was an open secret in the county that Schneckenburger would be given the job of county administrator in a Hornberger administration. And before the June 2020 primary, Schneckenburger was in discussions about his role in a potential Hornberger administration, according to multiple social media postings by his wife. Immediately after her election, Hornberger named him as head of her “transition team.”

The local government experience of Schneckenburger was seen by some local voters as a reassuring sign that the vastly inexperienced Hornberger would have a “grown up” in the room as key policy decisions were made. With his departure, Hornberger’s Annapolis political consultant pals are apparently fully in charge.

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