Where is Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh? It’s been weeks since she took a temporary leave of absence following what was apparently one of the worst known cases of pneumonia in history. She’s been completely absent (despite still collecting her full salary) while all of the BookGate outrage has absorbed the attention of the city. Still, she has insisted through her spokesperson that she would be returning to her normal duties just as soon as she’s feeling better.
This weekend that prospect grew a bit more difficult as yet another high-profile organization called on the scandal-plagued mayor to resign. The Greater Baltimore Committee (composed of prominent influencers from both the public and private sector) declared unanimously that Pugh no longer has the “public trust or moral authority” to continue leading the city. (Baltimore Sun)
The group’s board voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling on Pugh to go, concerned about revelations of hundreds of thousands of dollars in deals she struck to sell copies of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books.
“This was a difficult decision requiring a great deal of thought, but the GBC believes the mayor can no longer provide the leadership and effective government that Baltimore needs and deserves at this time,” said Donald C. Fry, the group’s president.
“The GBC Board determined that it is necessary for Mayor Pugh to resign so the city can move on, heal and leverage the many positive assets it has going for it.”
The GBC has an advisory policy role in municipal affairs, but no actual legislative, judicial or executive power inside the government. Still, this is a particularly brutal blow to Pugh’s standing. Members of the GBC include the CEOs of some of Baltimore’s largest employers, a former mayor, the owner of the Orioles and Catholic Archbishop William Lori. Pugh has already received calls for her resignation from both the City Council and the Baltimore area members of the state House of Delegates.
But what good will it do if she simply refuses to leave? As we’ve discussed here previously, there is no provision in the city charter for impeachment or any other path to removing a sitting mayor unless they are convicted of a crime. There’s a move underway to amend the charter so this won’t happen again, but that will take time and it’s unclear if they could apply it retroactively even if they do.
As things stand now, Pugh is almost entirely isolated politically with nobody taking her side. The level of grifting in those self-dealing arrangements with the University of Maryland Medical System seems obvious beyond description. But there was also no law against such activity until after the horse was already out of the barn. There was a time when this level of negative attention would have driven an elected official to resign just out of sheer embarrassment. But thus far, Catherine Pugh seems immune to such concerns.