BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Mayor Pugh took Wednesday off from multiple public appearances in the wake of an ethics controversy surrounding her time on the board of the University of Maryland Medical System.
The mayor also missed Wednesday morning’s Board of Estimates meeting.
A City employee sat in for Mayor Pugh at the meeting after she called out sick and canceled her weekly news conference.
This, amid growing concerns she sold the system, $500,000 worth of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books.
Her spokesperson told WJZ she has returned $100,000 from her book sales.
Books that the System, in turn, gave to City schools and are sitting in a district warehouse.
“We have to be clear, no matter who it is, and avoid any conflicts of interest and any appearance of conflicts of interest,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland.
Pugh’s friend Congressman Cummings said Wednesday at Morgan State he did not know of the book sales and wants to know more.
“I would urge the board–the entire board, there are quite a few members of that board–I think all of them should put a mirror up to themselves and ask themselves do they have conflicts?” Cummings said.
In Annapolis, state comptroller criticized the deal and asked for an independent audit.
“The 500 thousand dollar book deal caught my eye with a former senator who led the finance committee that funded a lot of the operations at UMMS. And, now everyone is is wringing their hands about the self-dealing that was going on,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot, D-Maryland.
While Mayor Pugh failed to disclose business dealings and even donated money from her book company to her campaign, the city’s top lawyer said no laws were broken.
“I’m not aware of any violations of the mayor. None,” said Andre Davis, city solicitor.
Gov. Hogan said on Monday he was “shocked, outraged and appalled,” and that there was a meeting scheduled Wednesday with legislative and UMMS leadership.
The meeting was reportedly private and closed to the media.
The Director of Communications for the Office of Gov. Hogan released a statement following the meeting:
It was a productive meeting where Governor Hogan clearly and emphatically expressed his concerns about conflicts of interest on the board of UMMS. He underlined the importance of addressing the public outcry, and the leaders of UMMS expressed their commitmment to act. We will work closely with the legislature on measures to improve oversight and accountability on the board.
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting, but also released a statement in regard to the meeting:
“Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the meeting this afternoon due to a follow-up procedure to my 2017 liver transplant. The problems surrounding the UMMS Board continue to concern me. UMMS cannot regain the public’s trust without a full accounting. On Monday, I requested emergency legislation to bring more transparency to the hospital system and make reforms to the UMMS Board, that will be introduced at the end of this week. I’d like to thank Senator Carter for her efforts to bring these ethical lapses to light. I hope we will continue to work collaboratively, along with the Senate President and the Governor, to quickly address these issues.”
Continue to stay with WJZ for more on this story.