Should she stay or should she go? Rather than invoking lyrics from The Clash, this is the question for embattled Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. We’re nearly a month out now from when we first learned about BookGate and the rest of the self-dealing allegations involving roughly one-third of the members of the Board of Directors at the University of Maryland Medical System. It’s absorbed almost all of the local news coverage, and the residents of Charm City have barely seen their mayor since she went on leave for “medical reasons.”
Yesterday, it all became too much for the rest of the City Council to bear. In a unanimous action, all of the legislators signed a letter asking the Mayor to resign her position and put an end to all the embarrassment. (CBS Baltimore)
Baltimore City councilmembers signed a letter Monday calling for the resignation of Mayor Catherine Pugh. But Pugh said she intends to return to her duties.
“The entire membership of the Baltimore City Council believes that it is not in the best interest of the City of Baltimore, for you to continue to serve as Mayor,” the letter stated. “We urge you to tender your resignation effective immediately.”
The letter is signed by all 14 members of Baltimore’s City Council, calling on Mayor Pugh to resign.
“I can’t walk my dog without somebody coming out the door asking, ‘Why hasn’t the mayor resigned?’” said Councilman Kristerfer Burnett.
The mayor’s response? That’s going to be a hard “nope,” folks. Her spokesperson put out a statement saying that Pugh “fully intends” to return to her job just as soon as she’s done recovering from a bout of pneumonia. (Seriously? She’s been gone for nine days. That must have been one heck of a case of pneumonia.)
There are currently criminal and/or ethics investigations into the Mayor’s actions being undertaken by the state prosecutor’s office, the Baltimore Board of Ethics, the Baltimore law department, and the state insurance commissioner, just to name a few. Unfortunately, other than sending her a strongly worded letter, there’s not much more the council or even the state government can do about it, at least for now.
The problem is that nobody ever passed any sort of law or rule forbidding the self-dealing schemes taking place on the UMMS board. What’s worse, there is no provision in the city charter for removing a mayor unless he/she is convicted of a crime. The state government already scrambled to put a new law in place ending the no-bid contracts and other self-dealing, grifting maneuvers at UMMS, but it can’t cover Pugh because they can’t make it retroactive. Similarly, there’s an effort underway to amend the City Charter to allow for impeachment, but who knows how long that could take.
And in the meantime, it appears that Mayor Catherine Pugh is completely immune to embarrassment or shame. She can stay right in her office collecting her very lucrative salary (which she’s still collecting on medical leave) and just dare everyone to try to remove her. And with every day that passes, the reputation of Baltimore continues to take a beating in a sea of alleged grifting and fraud.