City council wants Baltimore mayor out over self-published book

The Baltimore City Council called Monday for Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign amid a scandal over a major purchase of children’s books she authored by the University of Maryland Medical System and other groups.

“The entire membership of the Baltimore City Council believes that it is not in the best interest of the City of Baltimore, for you to continue to serve as Mayor. We urge you to tender your resignation, effective immediately,” the two-sentence letter read.

In a statement, council member Brandon Scott, who tweeted a photo of the letter Monday, noted the “severity of the action (the council members) have taken,” but said Baltimore was deserving of a mayor who can focus on other issues affecting the city.

The letter was signed by 14 members of the 15-member council — the only member not to sign it was Bernard C. “Jack” Young, the council’s president who has been serving as the “ex officio Mayor of Baltimore City” since Pugh took a leave of absence last week.

Despite the calls for her to step down, Pugh does not plan on vacating her post, according to her spokesman, James Bentley. In a statement issued Monday, Bentley said Pugh, whose current term expires in 2020, “fully intends to resume the duties of her office and continuing her work on behalf of the people and the City of Baltimore.”

Pugh’s leave of absence — which Bentley attributed to a bout of pneumonia — came the same day Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan wrote to the Office of the State Prosecutor and requested an investigation into the sales of thousands of Pugh’s book, “Healthy Holly,” to the University of Maryland Medical System while she was a member of its board.

UMMS spent $500,000 to fund the purchase of some 100,000 books from Pugh’s company Healthy Holly LLC, confirmed UMMS spokesman Michael Schwartzberg, who explained that UMMS never had possession of any Healthy Holly books, nor did it distribute books. Book distribution was managed by Healthy Holly LLC.

Pugh — who apologized in March for doing something “to upset the people” — recently returned $100,000 to the medical system and canceled her book deal. She has also resigned from the hospital’s board, according to Schwartzberg.

Pugh also received about $114,000 from Kaiser Permanente for some 20,000 books from 2015 to 2018, according to the health care provider. Kaiser Permanente said it delivered the books to back-to-school fairs, elementary schools, communities of faith and early childhood education and care centers.

Additionally, Associated Black Charities, a public foundation that works to encourage healthier and more prosperous communities, said it spent approximately $80,000 between 2011 and 2016 to buy some 10,000 copies of Pugh’s books — a project the organization learned about while she was still a state senator.