Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is going on a leave of absence after becoming engulfed in a scandal about a series of children’s books she authored.
The Baltimore Sun reported last month that while serving on the University of Maryland Medical System’s (UMMS) board of directors, Pugh arranged deals beginning in 2001 to sell 100,000 copies of her self-published “Healthy Holly” series to the medical system at a total cost of $500,000. There were no competitive bids for the deal, and Pugh resigned from the board last month.
On Monday, the Sun reported that the health insurance giant Kaiser Permanente paid Pugh $114,000 for copies of her books from 2015 to 2018. In September 2017, the city’s spending board, which Pugh controls, awarded Kaiser a $48 million contract for insurance for city employees. Pugh has not said anything about a deal with Kaiser.
Pugh initially called the investigation into her deal with the UMMS a “witch hunt,” but has refunded $100,000 to the medical system.
“In hindsight, this arrangement with the University of Maryland Medical System was a regrettable mistake,” she said during a press conference Thursday.
Pugh said the system then gave the books to day care programs and the city school system. As of last month, at least 8,700 books Pugh sold the medical system sat unread in a warehouse.
Pugh’s office put out a statement Monday afternoon saying she would be taking time off for health reasons:
“Mayor Catherine Pugh has been battling pneumonia for the past few weeks. She has been advised by her physicians that she needs to take time to recover and focus on her health. At this time, with the Mayor’s health deteriorating, she feels as though she is unable to fulfill her obligations as Mayor of Baltimore City. To that end, Mayor Pugh will be taking an indefinite leave of absence to recuperate from this serious illness.”
Earlier Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan formally asked for an investigation into Pugh’s dealings.
“I am writing to you to request that you investigate the matters and facts surrounding Mayor Catherine Pugh’s sales of thousands of books to the University of Maryland Medical System while she was a board member,” Hogan wrote in a letter to State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt. “These are deeply disturbing allegations. I am particularly concerned about the UMMS sale because it has significant continuing ties with the state and receives very substantial public funding.”