Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Resigns Amid Children's Book Scandal
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The city of Baltimore is without a permanent mayor this evening. After weeks of growing pleas for Mayor Catherine Pugh to step down, she finally resigned today in a letter read by her lawyer Steve Silverman.
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STEVE SILVERMAN: Today I am submitting my written resignation to the Baltimore City Council. 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.
CHANG: Pugh's resignation comes during multiple investigations into sales of her children's books. To explain more, we're joined now by Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun. Welcome.
LUKE BROADWATER: Good afternoon.
CHANG: So can you just give us some more details about what led to Pugh's resignation today?
BROADWATER: Yes. Well, for about a month and a half, she has been under tremendous political pressure. It started with a story that we broke in the Baltimore Sun involving her business dealings as a member of the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors. She had been selling $500,000 worth of her self-published children's books to the hospital network at a time when she was supposed to be overseeing their activities.
This spiraled into more investigative reporting from the Sun that uncovered more similar deals with other business entities that do business with the city of Baltimore. It prompted multiple investigations - state, local and finally a federal investigation. I think there's something like seven investigations...
BROADWATER: ...And multiple calls for the mayor's resignation from the governor on down to every member of the city council.
CHANG: Now, she hasn't been charged with a crime yet, but how likely is it that she is going to be facing charges?
BROADWATER: Well, I can't speculate about the likelihood of charges, but there are voluminous investigations going on, numerous investigations - I mean, the FBI, the IRS, the state prosecutor, the city Ethics Board, the inspector general, the Maryland Insurance Administration. There are multiple investigations, and we do know that they are quite likely looking at her taxes and also her ethics forms in addition to any larger alleged corruption schemes.
CHANG: Now, Pugh is the second Baltimore mayor in a decade to quit because of ties to a criminal investigation, right? So what would you say these resignations reflect about Baltimore or city politics there?
BROADWATER: Well, I would hope folks nationally wouldn't get the wrong idea about Baltimore because, I mean, Baltimore is my favorite city in the country.
BROADWATER: But the - but we have had very serious problems here with leadership and governance being done in an ethical way. And you're right. Two mayors ago, Mayor Sheila Dixon had to resign after pleading to perjury charges and to the theft of gift cards meant for children. So this is two out of the last three mayors have resigned amid scandal. Of course Mayor Pugh is only under investigation.
BROADWATER: She is not charged with any crime. But the political pressure on her, I think, made it untenable for her to govern with, you know, the governor, the state comptroller, the city delegation, the city council, the business community, everyone calling on her to resign.
CHANG: Now, just really quickly, Pugh has been on leave since early last month because of medical issues, and the current acting mayor does not want the job. So who's expected to take Pugh's place?
BROADWATER: Well, there will be a robust field of candidates now, including likely the past mayor who you referenced, Mayor Dixon - likely will get back into the mix. There are some other top candidates from the city council, from people who've run for governor before. I don't want to announce their campaigns for them, but it will be highly contested.
CHANG: Luke Broadwater is a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Thank you very much.
BROADWATER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.