Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is under fire over “Healthy Holly,” a children’s book series she authored, for which she has reportedly received $500,000 from the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) since 2011.
The university paid Pugh for 100,000 copies of her books between 2011 and 2018, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. The series of healthy lifestyle books for children was intended to go to schools and day care centers. However, the Baltimore Sun reported that some 50,000 copies remain unaccounted for and may never have been printed.
Pugh, who sat on the UMMS board of directors since 2011, resigned from the position and returned her most recent $100,000 payment after the Baltimore Sun exposed the arrangement in early March.
Six fellow members of the UMMS board either resigned or went on voluntary leave over the revelation that one-third of the board members have received financial compensation for their businesses from UMMS and the president and CEO of UMMS is on a leave of absence, according to the AP.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot called UMMS’s arrangements with board members “self-dealing” and said there needs to be an independent audit. Franchot told the Associated Press there were “no receipts, no contracts, no procurement” regarding Pugh’s book deal. He referred to it as a “gift” from the university.
Pugh has called questions about the deal a “witch hunt.”
The mayor did not properly disclose the deal on state ethics forms, the Sun reported and Monday a complaint was filed with the Office of the State Prosecutor, accusing Pugh of perjury over her omissions. She claims it was an oversight.
Her office says she plans to hold a news conference regarding “Healthy Holly” “as soon as possible following her release from the hospital” for pneumonia.
Pugh was elected in 2016 and faces a primary in 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.