Ian Duncan and Jean Marbella, Baltimore Sun, May 2, 2019
Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh resigned Thursday, apologizing for the harm she has caused to the city’s image and the mayor’s office amid a growing scandal over her sales of a self-published children’s book series.
Pugh submitted a letter of resignation dated Thursday. Her resignation is effective immediately, attorney Steven Silverman said at a news conference. She did not attend, and Silverman took no questions.
The Democrat’s defiant pledge last month to return to work gave way after federal agents raided her home and City Hall office a week ago. She becomes the second Baltimore mayor in a decade to quit in connection with a criminal investigation.
The mayor’s staff has been summoned to a 4:15 p.m. meeting at City Hall.
Pugh, once seen as a cleaner option in a city with a history of wrongdoing by politicians, was ultimately overtaken by the public outcry over hundreds of thousands of dollars in deals for her “Healthy Holly” books. They were revealed in a series of articles in The Sun that began March 13.
Pugh’s story shifted as she tried to account for first the deal to be disclosed, struck with the University of Maryland Medical System when she was a member of the hospital network’s board. She nonetheless called continued questioning by reporters a “witch hunt.”
Then, after being hospitalized for pneumonia, Pugh apologized for the UMMS sales at a City Hall news conference on March 28. But in the process of apologizing she disclosed that some 40,000 books UMMS had paid for were never produced. And in a bizarre twist, the still seriously ill mayor showed off a line of baby clothes.
The following week, it was revealed that other entities had paid for the books, including health insurer Kaiser Permanente, which made payments during the period it successfully sought a $48 million city contract.
Before the scandal, Pugh had tried to bring about positive change in Baltimore, but struggled to curb violent crime that reached historic levels before she took office and remained persistently high.
Outside of politics, Pugh worked as a banker and journalist, helped establish the city marathon and the Baltimore Design School, opened a clothing boutique in Pigtown, and served as dean and director of Strayer’s Business College, as Strayer University was then known.
A high point of Pugh’s tenure came in August 2017, when amid a roiling national controversy over what to do with monuments to the Confederacy, she drew praise for acting decisively. She ordered the overnight removal of four memorials from public spaces in Baltimore.