Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is on a leave of absence, citing her health as the reason, but coming amid weeks of controversy regarding her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books.
It’s been a long couple of weeks, with more questions than answers in some cases. Let’s start where it all began.
March 14: Pugh defends a deal where since 2011, she received $500,000 selling her self-published book series to the University of Maryland Medical System. Pugh, who became mayor in 2016, was among a third of the board who had UMMS contracts with their businesses.
This began after a report that Pugh filed disclosure forms with incorrect information and failed to disclose her position with the UMMS board in city ethics forms.
March 18: Pugh resigns as a board member of the University of Maryland Medical System a week after fallout related to her book sale.
March 19: Tax forms reveal Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s book company has given $7,040 in political contributions over the last three years, including $5,000 to her own campaign.
It is also revealed Healthy Holly LLC gave $1,000 through a ticket purchase to Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s campaign, and $1,000 to state Sen. Jill Carter, of which Olszewski’s office said he had no knowledge of.
March 20: Pugh returns $100,000 from her book sales to the University of Maryland Medical System, cancels public appearances.
March 21: Robert A. Chrencik, the CEO of the UMMS, is asked to take a leave of absence as the board plans to open a review of their practices with business relationships.
March 21: Eight days after the business relationship between Pugh and the UMMS is revealed, Mayor Pugh spoke for the first time in a press conference on how the deal began.
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.
“I apologize for some of the comments I’ve made just, under- just being concerned. I just feel that we can move forward. I’m not perfect,” Pugh said.
March 22: An emergency bill is heard in Annapolis designed to stop inside deals between the University of Maryland Medical System and its board members.
March 25: Mayor Pugh’s office announces the mayor had been hospitalized since the previous Tuesday with pneumonia.
A letter is sent to the State Prosecutor’s office, calling for the mayor to be investigated for perjury and criminal misconduct.
March 26: The Baltimore Sun reports at least 50,000 copies are unaccounted for, after Pugh received hundreds of thousands of dollars for selling them to a state hospital network while she sat on its board.
Maryland comptroller Peter Franchot calls for an independent audit, saying it was “urgent”.
March 28: The mayor is released from the hospital and shortly after spoke with the press, saying the deal was a mistake.
“In hindsight, this arrangement with the University of Maryland Medical System was an incredible mistake,” she said.
She also said she was planning to get the Healthy Holly books out of the warehouse and donate them to city youth.
“I understand the concerns raised by members of our community. This was indeed an unintended consequence. I will continue to write, something I’ve been doing for years and look for ways to inspire children.”
Pugh also announced she is developing Healthy Holly children’s clothing line. She held up baby clothes for the press conference to see.
March 29: Maryland lawmakers react to Mayor Pugh’s statement, asking for more information on the deal.
“My view is that we should collect all information before we make any final judgments about this,” Senator Chris Van Hollen said. “Obviously, the mayor acknowledges that people have legitimate concerns about what happened. I think we need to get all the facts.”
According to The Baltimore Sun, the city’s spending board awarded the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States Inc. a $48 million contract to provide city employees with health insurance options through 2020. Pugh controls and sits on that board, the Sun reported.
Gov. Hogan also calls for the state prosecutor to launch a formal investigation into Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s sales of children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical Center while she was a board member.
Shortly after, Mayor Pugh announces her leave of absence from mayor, citing health reasons connected to her hospital stint for pneumonia the week before.
April 2: Associated Black Charities confirms it received 4,500 copies of the 10,000 Healthy Holly books purchased for direct distribution for African American children. Records then further showed that of the 4,500 received, 4,100 were distributed to child care centers and youth-serving organizations in Baltimore and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Baltimore City Schools release a statement saying they currently have approximately 8,700 copies in our warehouse, and disclose other information based on their own staff members’ recollections that shipments were delivered and staff members have retrieved copies of the books on various occasions from the warehouse but we have no documentation regarding dates or quantities taken.”
Acting Mayor Jack Young holds a presser calling for stability, assuring citizens that Baltimore resilient despite the past “traumatizing few weeks,”
Young says he will not run for mayor in 2020.
A lawyer for Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh reveals the state prosecutor has opened an investigation into sales of her self-published children’s book on Tuesday.
April 5: 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.
April 6: Mayor Pugh responds to the unanimous call by City Council leaders for her resignation, says she “fully intends” to return to work.
April 7: Jim Smith, a top aide in Pugh’s office, announces he is resigning. No other staff members from the Pugh administration have left at this time.
April 8: Baltimore City’s delegates join city council leaders in calling for Pugh’s resignation.
April 10: Three City Hall aides to Mayor Pugh are suspended with pay.
April 12: The Great Baltimore Committee’s Board of Directors call for Mayor Pugh’s resignation.
April 17: Online petitions call for Pugh’s resignation, several top mayoral aides are placed on leave.
Another petition asks Gov. Larry Hogan to remove her from office, started by a Maryland Republican Party official.
Mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah calls on Pugh to release her tax returns after he did so earlier in the week.
April 18: Five of Mayor Pugh’s staffers are placed on paid leave, Acting Mayor Jack Young says at the time he hasn’t fired anyone.
Gov. Hogan signs a new law mandating reforms to the University of Maryland Medical System. The new law requires every current UMMS board member to leave- allowing them to reapply for their positions.
It also mandated an audit of how the system awards contracts and banned no-bid contracts for board members.
April 19: A seventh staffer is placed on paid leave, according to acting Mayor Jack Young.
A spokesman for Mayor Pugh said she’s continuing to see doctors and recover from pneumonia and does intend to return to work.
April 22: Baltimore City Council pass new ethics laws, including one that deals with financial disclosures.
April 23: City enters Week Four into Mayor Pugh’s leave of absence, and her aides officially go silent on status updates, echoing the same line that she is recovering and plans to return to work.
April 24: Three of Mayor Pugh’s aides are fired, the decision made by the acting mayor. WJZ also learns that one of the terminated employees is Gary Brown Jr., who worked in the city’s lobbying office. Brown had previously pled guilty to a campaign finance crime tied to her 2016 mayoral campaign.
April 25: Mayor Pugh’s house, City Hall and several other locations are raided by the FBI and IRS early Thursday morning.
April 26: UMMS CEO resigns amid the scandal, after being on leave since March 25.
April 29: Two more Pugh staffers, including Chief of Staff Bruce Williams and main lobbyist Karen Stokes are confirmed out of City Hall, according to Acting Mayor Jack Young.
May 2: Mayor Catherine Pugh resigns after days of silence. Her attorney Steve Silverman announces her resignation to the press that afternoon.