Mayor Catherine Pugh stepped down amid scandal over sales of her children’s book series.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned on Thursday, May 2 in light of controversy over sales of her children’s book series, becoming the second Baltimore mayor this decade to step down amid a criminal investigation. She apologized for the damage she has done to the legitimacy of her office and the face of the city in a statement her attorney Steven Silverman delivered at a news conference.
“Dear citizens of Baltimore, I would like to thank you for allowing me to serve as the 50th mayor. It has been an honor and privilege,” Pugh said in the statement. “I’m sorry for the harm that I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore and the credibility of the office of the mayor. Baltimore deserves a mayor who can move our great city forward.”
After a month-long state investigation into her business dealings, Pugh has resigned, effective immediately. On April 1, her office had announced that she would be taking a leave of absence to recover from pneumonia. This statement coincided with a report from The Baltimore Sun detailing that health care company Kaiser Permanente had purchased about 20,000 copies of Pugh’s Healthy Holly children’s books for $114,000 between 2015 and 2018. During this period, Kaiser Permanente was negotiating with the city’s spending panel to provide city employees with health care coverage. According to The Baltimore Sun, Pugh did not abstain from the vote despite the alleged conflict of interest.
The Baltimore Sun also reported that the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), a regional health care system, paid Pugh $500,000 for 100,000 copies of the book. Pugh stepped down from the UMMS board on March 18 after facing backlash over neglecting to fully disclose this deal.
Pugh’s resignation follows pleas for her to resign from Baltimore City Council and the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), a regional organization comprised of University President Ronald J. Daniels and other business and civic leaders. In addition, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called for her to step down on April 25, hours after Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents raided her house and City Hall offices.
Because of this public outcry, sophomore Political Science major Nicole Kiker was not surprised to learn that Pugh had resigned.
“This was really the only reasonable path for her to take considering calls for her resignation were so widespread and unanimous,” she said. “It would have been absolutely wild if she hadn’t resigned.”
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who has been the city’s acting mayor since April 1, will succeed her as mayor, per the city’s charter. He highlighted his goals as mayor in a public statement on Thursday.
“I have listened to the concerns of our citizens and I will work diligently to address those concerns,” he wrote. “Although I understand that this ordeal has caused real pain for many Baltimoreans, I promise that we will emerge more committed than ever to building a stronger Baltimore.”
Senior Political Science major Sean Jost hopes that Young will represent the voices of Hopkins students and members of the Baltimore community better than his predecessors, noting Pugh’s support for a private police force at Hopkins since 2017.
“Mayor Pugh’s resignation is a necessary but not sufficient step towards improving Baltimore politics and the city’s relationship with Hopkins,” he said. “Hopefully Young can develop a more community-based approach that engages with University politics.”