Mayor Pugh takes leave of absence as scandal over her book sales hits city

BALTIMORE – Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is taking a leave of absence Monday effective at midnight, City Solicitor Andre Davis confirmed.

Pugh is engulfed in a growing scandal surrounding board members of the University of Maryland Medical System who have side deals with the mammoth organization.

On Monday evening, hours after the announcement, the mayor released a statement saying that her doctors have advised her to take a leave of absence because she is still recovering from pneumonia, for which she was hospitalized last week for five days.

Pugh, a Democrat, resigned from her position on the UMMS board on March 18, shortly after it was revealed that she had not fully disclosed that UMMS had paid her a total of $500,000 from 2011-2018 in a no-bid contract for 100,000 copies of her children’s books. Two other board members have stepped down. The Baltimore Sun first reported that nearly a third of the 30 board members, including Pugh, had contracts with UMMS.

Pugh said UMMS distributed her self-published “Healthy Holly” series of children’s books to day care centers and public schools. But school officials acknowledged that the books never were used in coursework and that nearly 9,000 copies remained in storage in a warehouse, according to published reports.

UMMS is one of Maryland’s largest private employers and its University of Maryland Medical Center division is Baltimore’s largest private employer.

The mayor also received a payment for $100,000 from Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest HMOs and an option offered to city employees for health insurance.

Pugh, 69, a veteran politician in the city and state, beat her most formidable competitor in the primary election in 2016 in this overwhelmingly Democratic city, former Mayor Sheila Dixon. Dixon, Baltimore’s first female mayor, had resigned in 2010 — the day after she was sentenced in a plea deal for embezzlement. She admitted accepting several gift cards from city developers.

Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young, another veteran city politician, will serve as mayor during Pugh’s absence.

On Friday, former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa was sentenced to 10 months in prison for tax fraud. The 30-year veteran of the corruption-plagued Baltimore Police Department resigned last May after only four months in the top post. Weeks earlier he had been charged with taking improper deductions and claiming excessive exemptions on his state and federal taxes, as well as failing to file his taxes for three years.

After De Sousa was charged, Pugh faced harsh criticism from other city officials and voters, who accused her of not properly vetting Baltimore’s 40th police commissioner.

This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.