90 A.3d 1213 (Md.App. 2014), 677-2013, White v. Register of Wills of Anne Arundel County

Docket Nº:677-2013
Citation:90 A.3d 1213, 217 Md.App. 187
Opinion Judge:Arthur, J.
Party Name:DARLENE WHITE v. REGISTER OF WILLS OF ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MARYLAND
Attorney:Argued by: Puja Gupta (Cary J. Hansel, III, Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA on the brief) all of Greenbelt, MD for Appellant. Argued by: Beatrice Nunez-Bellamy (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD for Appellee.
Judge Panel:Panel: Graeff, Berger, Arthur, JJ.
Case Date:May 01, 2014
Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
 
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Page 1213

90 A.3d 1213 (Md.App. 2014)

217 Md.App. 187

DARLENE WHITE

v.

REGISTER OF WILLS OF ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MARYLAND

No. 677-2013

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

May 1, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Diane O. Leasure, Judge.

Argued by: Puja Gupta (Cary J. Hansel, III, Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA on the brief) all of Greenbelt, MD for Appellant.

Argued by: Beatrice Nunez-Bellamy (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD for Appellee.

Panel: Graeff, Berger, Arthur, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1214

[217 Md.App. 189] Arthur, J.

This case concerns whether appellant Darlene White, the former Chief Deputy Register of Wills for Anne Arundel County, was an employee of the executive branch or of the judicial branch. If Ms. White was an executive branch employee, she can bring a whistleblower complaint under the Maryland Whistleblower Law, Md. Code (1993, 2009 Repl. Vol.) § 5-305 of the State Personnel and Pensions Article; if she was a judicial branch employee, she cannot.

The Department of Budget and Management, the Office of Administrative Hearings, and the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel concluded that Ms. White was a judicial branch employee and, thus, was not permitted to bring a whistleblower complaint. We agree and, therefore, affirm.

Factual and Procedural History

This appeal stems from Ms. White's termination as Chief Deputy Register of Wills for Anne Arundel County on January 31, 2012. Ms. White contends that she was terminated in retaliation for a complaint that she filed against her former boss, the Register of Wills for Anne Arundel County, with the Department of Budget and Management (" DBM" ) on December 19, 2011. She seeks protection under the Maryland Whistleblower Law, Md. Code (1993, 2009 Repl. Vol.) § 5-305 of the State Personnel and Pensions Article.

Before her termination, Ms. White called the DBM to inquire about whether the Maryland Whistleblower Law, Md. Code (1993, 2009 Repl. Vol.) § 5-305 of the State Personnel and Pensions Article, would protect her from reprisals if she filed a complaint. According to Ms. White, an employee of DBM told her that she would be protected because her position as Chief Deputy Register of Wills made her an executive branch employee. She claims that, in reliance on that advice, she filed a whistleblower complaint under Md. Code (1993, 2009 Repl. Vol.) § 5-305 of the State Personnel and Pensions Article with DBM.

[217 Md.App. 190] After Ms. White was terminated, DBM dismissed her complaint for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning that Ms. White was a judicial branch employee, but that the whistleblower statute applied only to executive branch employees.1 Ms. White appealed to the Office of Administrative Hearings (" OAH" ), which affirmed that DBM did not have jurisdiction over the complaint because Ms. White was a judicial branch employee.

Page 1215

As stated above, Ms. White filed a petition for judicial review in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. The circuit court affirmed OAH's dismissal, and Ms. White noted a timely appeal.

Question Presented

Ms. White presents a single question for our review:

Is the Office of Administrative Hearings' finding that Ms. White was not an executive branch employee capable of filing a whistleblower complaint under Maryland Whistleblower Law, and was instead a judicial branch employee, supported by substantial evidence and legally correct?

For the reasons that follow, we answer yes and affirm.

Discussion

Ms. White argues that OAH erred when it concluded that she was an employee of the judicial branch, not the executive branch, and thus, not permitted to file a whistleblower action under Md. Code (1993, 2009 Repl. Vol.) § 5-305 of the State Personnel and Pensions Article. We disagree.

In reviewing an administrative agency's decision, we pass over the circuit court decision, and we examine the administrative decision using the same standard as the circuit court. Motor Vehicle Admin. v. Shea, 415 Md. 1, 15, 997 A.2d 768 (2010). The Court's role " is limited to determining if there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to [217 Md.App. 191] support the agency's findings and conclusions, and to determine if...

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