Baltimore Mayor Pugh Resigns Amid Children's Book Scandal

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh / Getty Images
May 2, 2019

Catherine Pugh, who took an indefinite leave of absence last month as Baltimore's mayor, resigned Thursday amid a scandal involving lucrative deals of her self-published children's books.

Pugh, a Democrat, had been under mounting pressure to resign following a scandal in which she secured lucrative deals selling her Healthy Holly children's books to the University of Maryland Medical System when she served on their board of directors.


City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, 64, the Democrat who has been serving as acting mayor, will be replacing Pugh until next year's election. He released a statement on Twitter about his new role, saying he will pledge to continue working hard to "keep government's focus on providing essential services to our citizens."

"Although I understand that this ordeal has caused real pain for many Baltimoreans, I promise that we will emerge from it more committed than ever to building a stronger Baltimore," he said.

While Pugh stepped down from the board and called the book deal a "regrettable mistake," she repeatedly said she would not be stepping down as mayor. Instead she took a leave of absence to recover from pneumonia.

"She is unable to fulfill her obligations as Mayor of Baltimore City," the mayor's office said. "To that end, Mayor Pugh will be taking an indefinite leave of absence to recuperate from this serious illness."

Pugh's lawyer, Steve Silverman, spoke at a press conference Thursday, where he read a statement from Pugh.

"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," Silverman read. "Baltimore deserves a mayor who can move our great city forward."

The Baltimore Sun previously reported on Pugh's deal with health provider Kaiser Permanente. The company purchased 20,000 copies of her Healthy Holly children’s books while seeking a contract with the city. The Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Mid-Atlantic States Inc. was awarded the $48 million contract by Baltimore’s spending board, which the mayor controls.

As the Washington Free Beacon reported at the time:

Kaiser Permanente said they "purchased the books from Healthy Holly, LLC," which is Pugh’s company.

According to the Sun, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield also bought some of Pugh’s illustrated books in 2011 and 2014.

Despite all these deals, Pugh’s printer had only put out 60,000 copies of her books and didn’t have any orders for more. The UMMS deal alone was for 100,000 books. There was no contract for the books, and some of the purchases were called "grants" in federal filings.

Published under: Maryland