Baltimore mayor Catherine E. Pugh resigned on Thursday, her attorney said at a press conference, which she did not attend. The city’s 50th mayor had been mired in scandal since March, when the Baltimore Sun revealed that, in 2011, she had sold her “Healthy Holly” children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System for $500,000, and did not disclose the no-bid payment while she was a state senator. At the time, she also sat on the UMMS board of directors and did not recuse herself from votes involving the hospital system. Pugh’s resignation is effective immediately.
On March 20, Pugh told the Sun that she had not distributed her books besides the 100,000 sold to UMMS over a period of several years. But it soon emerged that other health-care interests had paid for the books, including insurance company Kaiser Permanente, which purchased “Healthy Holly” titles while it sought a $48 million contract with Baltimore. (Books in the series, which include Exercising Is Fun! and Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow, reportedly contain a number of copy errors despite their high price tag.)
On April 1, Pugh announced that she was taking a leave of absence, citing a hospitalization for pneumonia. She had pledged to return to her position, until the FBI and IRS raided her home and City Hall office on April 25, revealing that both federal and state officials were investigating her actions.
Pugh, 69, has been mayor since 2016, and served on the Baltimore City Council since 1999. Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young has been at the helm of city government since Pugh announced her leave of absence, and will succeed her as mayor.
“I’m 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,” Pugh wrote in her resignation letter. “Baltimore deserves a mayor who can move our great city forward.” But as the Sun suggests, that might not be a given. Pugh is the second Baltimore mayor in a decade to resign while involved in a criminal investigation. Sheila Dixon, the mayor from 2007 to 2010, resigned after being indicted on 12 felony and misdemeanor counts related to her alleged misappropriation of gift cards intended for the city’s poor.