BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has resigned. 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’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.”
Legal expert Adam Ruther told WJZ’s Mike Hellgren that Pugh’s resignation could help her if she’s charged with corruption or tax fraud in the future.
“To your other question about why make a decision now to resign given that she is currently not charged with anything and innocent until proven guilty — it’s worth remembering — is really more of a political one,” Ruther said. “If the mayor has reached the point where she realizes the shadow of these investigations and the investigation hang over her, she can’t be effective in her job serving the citizens of the city of Baltimore, then the right thing to do by any standard is for her to step down.”
Pugh did not show up to her attorney’s office for the announcement.
“It’s absolutely smart that we didn’t hear from her individually. Anything that she says that’s recorded from this point forward could be used against her later on. So if she individually made an apology to the people of Baltimore, it’s certainly a little more likely to be used against her as a tacit admission than her lawyer reading a prepared statement to the press,” Luther said.
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Mayor Pugh has been under fire over book deals with organizations doing business with the city that have netted her almost $800,000.
Pugh was on a leave of absence due to her health. She was diagnosed with pneumonia last month and spent several days in the hospital.
After holding a press conference on the day she was released from the hospital and plugging her ‘Healthy Holly’ baby gear, she’s stayed out of the spotlight.
Last week, the FBI and the IRS raided Pugh’s homes and offices. They also delivered a subpoena to her attorney’s office.
Gov. Larry Hogan again called for her resignation. Hogan already asked the state prosecutor to launch an investigation into her book deal with UMMS.
Throughout an eight-year-period, Pugh sold the Medical System $500,000 worth of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books. These books were in turn given to the Baltimore City school system, and are currently sitting in a district warehouse.
The controversy surrounding Pugh and her “Healthy Holly” book deal with the University of Maryland Medical System has continued since she went on a leave of absence.
WJZ has confirmed that Ariel Investments paid Pugh $3,600 for 400 “Healthy Holly” books to distribute at a 2013 conference in which she spoke.
In September of 2017, at a Black Corporate Directors Conference sponsored by Ariel, paid for Pugh to attend the California conference.
Five months later, Baltimore’s Board of Estimates approved a $40 million contract with Ariel.
The city Board of Ethics has started its investigation of Pugh’s business deals and whether they affected city business.
Officials are reviewing deals with at least three businesses: Carefirst, Kaiser Permanente and Ariel Investments
The nonprofit, Associated Black Charities, collected payments from Carefirst and Ariel among others and passed on about $80,000 to Pugh.
Kaiser, meanwhile, paid Pugh directly for her ‘Healthy Holly’ children’s books for three years.
Years later Pugh and the Board of Estimates approved city contracts for the companies.