In an unequivocal, two-sentence statement issued Monday, every active member of the Baltimore City Council called on embattled Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign “immediately” amid the increasingly untenable fallout from her “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal.
Over the last few weeks, Pugh’s extremely lucrative deal with various entities connected to the city has prompted a growing backlash against the mayor. In total, Pugh and her private company have racked up some $700,000 for mass purchases of her self-published “Healthy Holly” book, including $500,000 from the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), a deal struck while she was a member of its board. As more details of her book deals emerge, so do the legal and ethical questions, which have already triggered multiple investigations. Amid the mounting scandal, politicians are beginning to ramp up the pressure on Pugh, including all 14 of the city council’s voting members.
“The entire membership of the Baltimore City Council believes that it is not in the best interest of the City of Baltimore, for you to continue to serve as Mayor. We urge you to tender your resignation, effective immediately,” the city council said in a letter issued Monday.
Along with the terse letter, several of the council members issued individual statements Monday, as reported by NBC News affiliate WBAL TV.
“Baltimore will continue to have a cloud over its head while the investigations into Mayor Pugh’s business dealings go on,” said Councilman Brandon Scott. “These issues are extremely severe and prohibit the Mayor from focusing on the business of Baltimore. Today I join my colleagues in asking for the Mayor’s resignation. Baltimore deserves a Mayor who can focus on reducing crime, improving our schools and restoring trust in our government. My colleagues and I understand the severity of the action we have taken, but know that it is what’s best for Baltimore. A lot of work remains to rebuild trust in our government but that will not start until the Mayor resigns.”
“The myriad of investigations underway into the various business dealings involving the Mayor raise significant ethical and legal issues,” said Councilman Eric Costello. “It will be impossible for Mayor Pugh to govern effectively. Therefore, I have joined all my colleagues today in asking for the Mayor’s immediate resignation. This unprecedented step has not been taken lightly. While I fully support the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ I remain deeply concerned about the immeasurable toll this scandal has taken on the City of Baltimore and its citizens. Resignation will not solve every problem but Baltimore needs to heal, once again, and it cannot do so until the Mayor steps aside.”
“It is disappointing and a little frustrating, but I understand you know in this country you are presumed innocent until found guilty and it’s possible that is her position that until the investigations are completed she may want to stay in that position,” said Councilman Kristefer Burnett. “It has become a complete distraction from the work of moving Baltimore forward. I haven’t even been able to walk my dog without being asked why the mayor hasn’t resigned.”
Though 14 of the 15 council members are demanding her resignation (one of them is currently the acting mayor while Pugh is on leave for “health” reasons), Pugh’s office has made clear in response that she’s not planning on going anywhere.
“Mayor Pugh has taken a leave to focus on recovering from pneumonia and regaining her health,” her office said in a statement Monday. “She fully intends to resume the duties of her office and continuing her work on behalf of the people and the City of Baltimore.”