Barely a week after FBI and IRS agents raided her two homes, office at city hall and a non-profit belonging to a friend, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's lawyer said Thursday that his client would resign, making her the second Baltimore mayor to leave office under a cloud of corruption in the past decade.
Pugh, who has been on a leave of absence since April 1, the same day that Gov. Larry Hogan said he would call for a criminal investigation into allegations of self-dealing, reportedly tried to make a run for it after the raids. Shortly beforehand, members of the city council signed a letter asking her to resign.
According to the Washington Post, Pugh's resignation brings her more than two-decade career in politics to an end. Her candidacy for mayor was championed by Elijah Cummings (yes, that Elijah Cummings) one of Maryland's most influential politicians, and she initially triumphed in a hotly contested primary as the city reeled from the aftermath of the Freddie Gray riots.
A scandal erupted in March when the Baltimore Sun revealed that Pugh, who sat on the board of the University of Maryland Hospital System, was paid half a million dollars for 100,000 copies of her "Healthy Holly" children's books (there's suspicion that half of these books were never even delivered, yet Pugh was paid in full).
But more galling, Pugh was also paid $100,000 by Kaiser Permanente, the managed care consortium that was in the process of securing a $48 million contract with the city.
Her departure will usher in another era of political instability in a city that's struggle with high levels of violent crime and deep mistrust of the police following the Gray killing and several other corruption scandals.
Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, 64, who has been serving as acting mayor in Pugh's absence, will replace Pugh at the helm of city government until next year’s election, where he said he would not seek another term.
Utilizing language favored by President Trump, Pugh initially derided the "Healthy Holly" scandal as a "Witch Hunt" before issuing a public apology.
Though facing potential criminal charges, Pugh's position as mayor was relatively secure: According to the city charter, there is no way for the council or the governor to remove her from office.
Which suggests to us that she got the tap from prosecutors that they wanted her to resign as the investigation ramps up.