News & Politics

Baltimore City Council Demands Mayor Pugh Resign Amidst Corruption Scandal, Bout With Pneumonia

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh walks on the Maryland House of Delegates chamber floor before Gov. Larry Hogan's annual State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Annapolis, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is on a temporary leave of absence while she recovers from a bout of pneumonia, but that did not stop the City Council from demanding her resignation amid a massive corruption scandal. The University of Maryland Medical System bought her self-published books for $500,000, and she sponsored legislation making it harder for abused patients to sue hospitals.

“The entire membership of the Baltimore City Council believes that it is not in the best interest the City of Baltimore, for you to continue to serve as Mayor,” the 14 members of the City Council said in a letter to Pugh. “We urge you to tender your resignation, effective immediately.”

Ryan Dorsey, the city council member who tweeted the letter, urged Maryland’s General Assembly to amend the state’s charter and Constitution so legislators can force Pugh to resign. Forcing a mayor out of office if tricky, perhaps even impossible, without a criminal conviction, The Baltimore Sun reported.

“Dear General Assembly, I’ve noticed you have about 15 1/2 more lawmaking hours and retain the power to amend our charter as well as the Constitution,” Dorsey tweeted.

Last month, The Baltimore Sun reported that nine members of the University of Maryland Medical System’s board had deals benefiting their private companies with the system of hospitals they oversaw. Three board members, including Pugh, resigned from the board and the other four were placed on leave.

The hospital network paid Pugh $500,000 to produce 100,000 self-published Healthy Holly books to send to the Baltimore school system. Pugh didn’t complete the books, and school officials said the books they received were “unsolicited.”

When Pugh received the pay, she was a state senator. She sponsored dozens of bills affecting Maryland hospitals, The Sun reported. Pugh sponsored eight failed attempts at legislation to make it harder for aggrieved patients to successfully sue hospitals and doctors for large judgments in medical malpractice claims.

Pugh also did not list her Healthy Holly LLC business on state ethics forms until The Sun questioned her. Then she filed seven years of amended forms last month. Worse, the former state senator listed her Healthy Holly company address as being run out of her district Senate office, which is paid for by taxpayers.

Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities admitted last week to buying roughly 30,000 copies, paying Pugh nearly $200,000. She voted in 2017 to approve a $48 million contract for Kaiser Permanente to provide insurance to city employees, and Associated Black Charities manages a $13 million youth fund with the city.

The city council’s demand for Pugh to resign seems reasonable, although sending the letter while she struggles with pneumonia seems a low blow.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.