BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned Thursday afternoon, now what’s next for the former mayor?
Pugh’s attorney Steve Silverman read a statement from the former mayor outside his office Thursday afternoon.
The news comes after weeks of local and state leaders called for the 69-year-old mayor’s resignation after a scandal related to her ‘Healthy Holly’ children’s book series. Pugh has not made a public appearance for 24 days.
“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 a privilege. Today I am submitting my written resignation to the Baltimore City Council. I am 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. I want to thank all of our department heads and staff who work hard every day to improve the quality of life for all who live, work and visit our city. I also thank Jack Young, the president of the City Council for his steadfast leadership in my absence. I wish you well in your new role as Mayor of Baltimore City.”
Gov. Larry Hogan called it the right decision.
“This was the right decision, as it was clear the mayor could no longer lead effectively. The federal and state investigations must and will continue to uncover the facts,” Hogan said. “Baltimore City can now begin to move forward. The state pledges its full support to incoming Mayor Jack Young and to city leaders during this time of transition.”
Adam Ruther, a white-collar defense attorney in Baltimore, said he doesn’t believe she lost anything by waiting this long to make the decision.
“We don’t know the real reasons she’s waited so long to make this decision,” Ruther said. “Obviously it’s a very big decision from which there is no coming back.”
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“On a personal level I’m sure it was a very difficult decision for her,” he added, “and if we listen to her attorney Steve Silverman about how that process has gone, her health may have also factored into the ability to make that decision.”
Ruther said if the investigation about Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” book deals goes to court, Pugh could say she resigned as soon as she was well enough to make that decision for the best of Baltimore.
“Sometimes with public corruption cases — if that’s what this turns out to being — that’s a compelling argument to make to the judge, that I put my position ahead of my self-interest,” Ruther said.
So what charges could Pugh be facing?
Ruther said Pugh could be looking at tax charges — failure to file properly, failure to report the income, failure to pay the proper amount of taxes — and public corruption charges like public official bribery or honest services fraud.
The federal investigation into Pugh began before raids last week and before the “Healthy Holly” scandal was made public, but Ruther said the investigation could last several years. Authorities will have to collect evidence, go through the evidence, talk to witnesses and go through the grand jury process before a charging decision is made.
“Federal investigations, particularly public corruption investigations, often take a very long time. As we can see, they gather an enormous amount of evidence before they make a charging decision. They go through the grand jury investigation process which involves calling witnesses and asking them questions,” Ruther said. “So there’s a great deal that goes on behind the scenes and it can take years to ultimately to get to the point where the government is comfortable saying, ‘We’re going to decide to charge a public official with corruption.’ So the ultimate decision there is something that might be years away.”
Ruther, who works for the firm Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, is a white-collar defense attorney in Baltimore. He is not Pugh’s attorney.
“It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see anything or hear anything now the former mayor until there’s a charging decision made, Ruther said “The extent that she went to through her attorney apologizing for what she has put the city through is not really a specific enough statement to cause her any peril in the investigation to come. It’s not as though the government would be able to use that statement against her in court. It was a statement her lawyer made on her behalf and it was certainly vague enough that it probably won’t cause her any trouble. But that’s probably the last we’ll hear from Catherine Pugh until a charging decision is made.”
Dr. Kaye Whitehead, Professor of Communications and African American Studies at Loyola U and host of Today With Dr. K on WEAA radios said despite the scandals with now two former mayors, she doesn’t think people will hesitate to run.
“What’s interesting, I think when you talk about where politics is at this moment — and I want to go beyond Baltimore City — there is a sense that we can’t trust our politicians whether they’re at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, whether they’re in Annapolis, or whether they’re here in Baltimore City,” Whitehead said. “But even if we can’t trust the politicians in office, we have to trust the process and we have to believe that there are people now being groomed, people who love this city, people who want to see Baltimore survive, people who recognize that the wonderful thing about Baltimoreans is the sense of resiliency — that despite the fact there’s a negative narrative, we still survive, we still rise, we still do the best that we can and that’s what we have to believe in. We cannot let the narrative be written by people outside of Baltimore. We know the challenges here, but Baltimore City is a beautiful place.”