Mayor Catherine Pugh took an indefinite leave of absence on Monday, April 1 in the midst of the “Healthy Holly” book scandal from which Pugh accumulated roughly $800,000 from various sources.
James E. Bentley II, Pugh’s spokesman, cited health issues such as pneumonia as the reasoning for Pugh’s leave of absence. However, he did not mention the scandal or any allegations from the scandal in his statement. For nearly a decade, politically interested parties have bought Pugh’s books, and in return, Pugh pushed the envelope on policies and funding related to such parties using her influence as state senator and, eventually, Baltimore mayor. Since 2011, Pugh had received $500,000 from the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) for 100,000 copies of her books. UMMS has a volunteer board which Pugh joined as she was paid to make her books.
Kaiser Permanente revealed that it paid $114,000 between 2015 and 2018 for 20,000 paperback copies of Pugh’s roughly 20-page books. When Pugh became mayor in 2016, she, as head of the Baltimore spending committee, awarded the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic a $48 million contract which Kaiser Permanente previously held.
Pugh received $500,000 from UMMS to publish five “Healthy Holly” books. When the scandal was uncovered, Pugh had published three books and begun a fourth. She returned $100,000 for the fifth, unwritten book.
“It’s wrong. She should be punished,” said junior Andrea Sicoli.
An anonymous source commented, “[Pugh] is so fake and ridiculous. She’s going to take her money and run to the Bahamas.”
As more information came to light, Pugh resigned from the UMMS volunteer board, the seventh resignation due to unethical practices. She had been on the board for 18 years before she resigned.
The Baltimore school system confirmed in March that nearly 9,000 of Pugh’s books, intended to encourage healthy living in children, were sitting in a warehouse. Pugh apologized for the book deal in late March, saying that 20,000 books ordered in 2017 were now being delivered after they had been “delayed,” according to Pugh.
It has been documented that this will be the fourth year in a row that homicides in Baltimore have reached and exceeded 300. However, the “Healthy Holly” scandal has other Baltimore executives insisting on Pugh’s resignation.
“The Mayor has to resign – now. The people of Baltimore are facing too many serious challenges, as it is, to also deal with such brazen, cartoonish corruption from their chief executive,” State Comptroller Peter Franchot tweeted.
The City Council unanimously called for Pugh’s resignation, as well. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a tweet that “Mayor Pugh has lost the public trust. She is clearly not fit to lead. For the good of the city, Mayor Pugh must resign.”
Hogan called for an investigation into the book deal when the scandal was uncovered. On Thursday, April 23, federal agents executed search warrants on Pugh’s home, Baltimore City Hall, and the office of Pugh’s attorney, Steven Silverman.
Other searched locations include a second residence Pugh owns, the home of one of Pugh’s former aides, and a non-profit organization Pugh worked for years before.
The FBI has not made any arrests related to the book deal. When reached out for a comment, the state prosecutor office could not comment on the searches.
The investigation continues in the midst of turmoil and crime in Baltimore, leaving the city wondering where it can look for stability.