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Catherine Pugh, Baltimore mayor, resigns from office

June 5, 2019

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned Thursday, one week after federal agents had raided her homes and offices in an investigation of hundreds of thousands of dollars she made from sales of her self-published children’s health book to a hospital network on whose board she served and to contractors seeking to do business with the city.

Ms. Pugh’s attorney, Steven Silverman, read a statement from his client during a news conference Thursday afternoon. The mayor has not been seen in public since April 2, when she took a self-imposed, indefinite leave of absence paid by the city to recover from a bout of pneumonia, as the scandal over her book dealings grew and festered.

“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,” Mr. Silverman read aloud in his offices in Baltimore during the less-than-five-minute news conference.

The mayor did not appear at the event, and her attorney did not take questions.

Ms. Pugh’s long-awaited resignation took effect immediately. Acting Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young, a longtime member of the City Council, automatically became Baltimore’s 51st mayor.

“I believe that this action is in the best interest of the City of Baltimore,” Mr. Young said in a written statement.

He was in Detroit for a conference about economic development and will return over the weekend, The Associated Press reported.

“I am confident that I have left the City in capable hands for the duration of the term to which I was elected,” Ms. Pugh said in her resignation letter.

The embattled first-term Democrat’s departure was seen as a climax to weeks of drama and deepening political isolation.

At a rambling news conference days before retreating from public view, Ms. Pugh described her $500,000 book deal worth with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), which she oversaw, as a “regrettable mistake.”

The 69-year-old’s abruptly retreat to her home came the same day that Gov. Larry Hogan asked the state prosecutor to investigate public corruption accusations against her.

Those investigations into Ms. Pugh’s finances are ongoing, focused on the financial deals behind her self-published “Healthy Holly” paperbacks to UMMS and firms, such as health care provider Kaiser Permanente, seeking contracts in the city.

She made about $800,000 over the years in exchange for the books, which focused on health and nutrition. The paperbacks supposedly were intended to be distributed to schools and day care centers.

Ms. Pugh is Baltimore’s second mayor to leave City Hall amid scandal in less than a decade.

She entered office in 2016 contrasting her clean image with her main opponent, ex-Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was forced to depart in 2010 as part of a plea deal for misappropriating about $500 in gift cards meant for needy families.

The book scandal, which erupted in late March, changed all that.

Mr. Hogan called the accusations “deeply disturbing,” and the state’s accountant described her book-selling arrangements as “brazen, cartoonish corruption.”

Her fractured administration then lurched from one crisis to another as various aides were fired or left City Hall while calls for her resignation mounted, including from the city council, numerous state lawmakers and an influential business group, among others.

After weeks of uncertainty and mounting pressure for her to step down which included dramatic scenes of Mr. Silverman repeatedly visiting Ms. Pugh’s home to discuss “options” but finding her too frail to make “major decisions” Thursday’s resignation was seen by local media as providing a measure of resolution.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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