Baltimore Mayor landed sweet deal selling her self-published books

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has a lengthy resume, having worked in public relations, as an editor for the Baltimore Sun, co-owner of a television station and member of both the City Council and state assembly before taking her current position. But did you know she was also a published author? Well… “published” is technically correct, but perhaps a bit misleading since her series of children’s books were actually self-published.

Going that route doesn’t always work out for people because it’s hard to run up sales without the PR muscle of an established publishing house. Recent revelations indicate that Pugh found a way around that obstacle, however. She managed to arrange for the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) to purchase tens of thousands of copies of her books over a period of eight years, netting her at least half a million dollars. Also of note is the fact that she’s been a board member of UMMS for most of that time. And you’ll never guess which facts failed to be reported in her financial disclosure forms and ethics disclosure documents. (Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has not reported on disclosure forms filed with the city’s ethics office that she sits on the board of directors for the University of Maryland Medical System, according to The Baltimore Sun’s review of records.

Instructions on the form tell public officials to report any “office, directorship, salaried employment, or similar position with any business entity that was doing business with the city.”

Also, the University of Maryland Medical System did not disclose on its federal tax form for the year ending June 30, 2017, that it had entered into a contract with Pugh to buy 20,000 copies of her book, “Healthy Holly: Exercising is Fun,” the form shows. A section on the form is reserved for reporting “business transactions involving interested persons” and the system has in the past listed dealings with other board members.

That first article I linked above was published early in the news cycle and only mentioned approximately $100K in book sales. Further investigation pushed the start of this lucrative arrangement back to 2011 and the profits swelled to $500K.

I’m struggling to remember a time when there wasn’t some high-ranking public official in Baltimore being involved in some sort of scam or dodgy arrangement or another. But this was a really sweet deal for Pugh by any measure. You go through the steps of writing a children’s book, publish it yourself, and then get a major entity like UMMS (that accepts taxpayer funding) to buy massive stockpiles of your book.

After the story broke, Pugh quickly moved to “amend her financial disclosure forms” because there were apparently “errors” on them.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh did not fully disclose the $500,000 business relationship she started in 2011 with the University of Maryland Medical System during the time she was a state senator, a period during which she sat on the hospital network’s board of directors and oversaw issues involving UMMS in the legislature, according to The Baltimore Sun’s review of financial disclosure forms.

After The Sun asked questions Friday about the disclosure forms she filed while in the Senate, Pugh submitted an amendment for seven years of reports filed with the state ethics commission. The new documents disclose that she established her company, Healthy Holly LLC, which sold children’s books she wrote to the medical system.

You know, I’m not sure that a failure to disclose these profits on your ethics and financial disclosure forms is the real issue here, though it should probably be disqualifying for high office as things stand. The real question here is how she was allowed to implement all of those book sales with an entity she sat on the board for and previously had legislative oversight of. Is there any other way to describe this arrangement than as a purposeful abuse of government power to fleece the taxpayers for huge sums of money?

Somebody must have known this was going on for all these years. How is it that they didn’t say anything? Or was that just considered the price of doing business in Charm City? Under nearly any other circumstances this would probably be a career killer and yet another Democratic Baltimore mayor would be out the door under a cloud of corruption. But that’s not how things always roll in that town. Don’t be shocked if Pugh rides this out and hangs onto her job.