Three aides to Mayor Catherine Pugh have been fired

Apr 24, 2019

Acting Baltimore Mayor Bernard "Jack"Young has terminated Afra Vance -White, Poetri Deal and Gary Brown Jr. were suspended with pay last week, but at City Hall this morning, Young announced the end of their employment with the City of Baltimore.

Pugh, whose annual salary is $185,000,  is currently on an indefinite leave of absence as she recovers from pneumonia.  She's also under investigation by the Office of the State Prosecutor for her sale of "Healthy Holly" children's books to companies that do business with the city.  She also sold them to the University of Maryland Medical System, where she held a seat on the board of directors. Three other Pugh aides remain on paid leave:

  • Chief of Staff Bruce Williams (Estimated Salary $183,300)
  • Karen Stokes, Director of Government Relations (Salary $156,743)
  • Stephanie Hall, Staffer on the Baltimore Women’s Commission (Salary $63,800) Hall was also Pugh’s campaign chairwoman from 2001 to 2003

Young said he has not made a determination as of yet about their futures. The entire Baltimore City Council has called for Mayor Pugh’s resignation. So has the Baltimore City Republican Party, The Greater Baltimore Committee –who supported Pugh in 2016.

Governor Larry Hogan called for the State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt to begin criminal investigations into Mayor Pugh’s book deals. The University of Maryland Medical System paid Mayor Pugh’s $500,000 (in five installments) for copies of her self-published Healthy Holly children’s book series-- while she was a member of the UMMS board of directors.

In a letter written to Davitt, Hogan said “[t]hese are deeply disturbing allegations. I am writing to you to request that you investigate the matters and facts surrounding Mayor Catherine Pugh’s sales of thousands of books to the University of Maryland Medical System while she was a board member,” Hogan wrote in a letter to State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt. I am particularly concerned about the UMMS sale because it has significant continuing ties with the state and receives very substantial public funding."

Pugh resigned her seat in March and returned a $100,000 payment she received last year.

Meanwhile, there was another revelation in the Healthy Holly saga that dropped. The Baltimore Sun reported healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente paid Mayor Pugh $114,000 for her Health Holly books. The newspaper reports Pugh, a Democrat, became mayor in December 2016. In September 2017, the city’s spending board, which Pugh sits on and controls, awarded the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States Inc. a $48 million contract to provide health insurance to city employees from 2018 through 2020, with options to renew.

Pugh does not appear to have abstained from voting on the contract. According the report, Kaiser issued a series of written statements to The Sun, acknowledging the book deal but saying it had nothing to do with the company’s business with the city — which it said began in 1986.

State Comptroller Peter Franchot, like Pugh, a Democrat, has also calle for the mayor to resign over the Healthy Holly book controversy.  “

“The Mayor has to resign – now,” said Franchot. “The people of Baltimore are facing too many serious challenges, as it is, to also to deal with such brazen, cartoonish corruption from their chief executive.” (statement on Facebook)

At news conference, Pugh apologized to the citizens of Baltimore, UMMS for the controversy, calling it a “regrettable mistake.” Former state prosecutor’s office investigator James Cabezas filed a complaint against Pugh, largely claiming that she did not disclose the income from the UMMS book deal on disclosure forms--but managed to report income from other outside sources.

The General Assembly, House committee voted unanimously for a measure to completely overhaul the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors.  The bill comes after nine of the 30 board members benefited from business deals with the hospital system, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.  Under the amended proposal, no elected officials would be able to serve on the board, members would not be allowed to use their positions for private gain and financial disclosure statements would be required.