Baltimore mayor takes leave of absence while embroiled in book scandal

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"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", Franchot wrote on Facebook, with a link to the Sun's story on the contract with Kaiser Permanente.

Pugh was hospitalized for five days last week with pneumonia, the Baltimore Sun reports, and her office issued a statement saying her doctors told her she should take more time to recover; the statement didn't mention the book deal.

"She is unable to fulfill her obligations as Mayor of Baltimore City", the mayor's office said.

In a letter released earlier Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, called on the state prosecutor to investigate allegations of self-dealing by Pugh. Hogan expressed particular concern about a $500,000 sale to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) "because it has significant continuing ties with the State and receives very substantial public funding".

The city's spending panel, of which Pugh is a member, awarded a contract worth $48 million in 2017 to Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of MidAtlantic States Inc., according to the Sun.

Cohen notes that Pugh accepted over $100,000 from Kaiser Permanente for her "Healthy Holly" children's books while the company was seeking a contract to provide health benefits to city employees. She has resigned from the UMMS board and returned $100,000 for books that were not produced.

Pugh became mayor in December 2016. Surely somebody at Kaiser realized that they were shoveling more than $100K straight into the pocket of the person who would decide the fate of their contract.

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For weeks Pugh, a Democrat, has been the focus of criticism surrounding her Healthy Holly children's book series about a black girl who promotes nutrition and exercise.

He said that other companies that have engaged in private business with the mayor while she held public office need to disclose it immediately.

Pugh was paid $500,000 since 2011 to publish children's books for Baltimore City schoolchildren, CNN affiliate WBAL reported.

At a press conference last week, Pugh apologized for doing "something to upset the people of Baltimore", saying she never meant to "anything that could not stand up to scrutiny".

The attorney representing the mayor, Steve Silverman, said the mayor looked "forward to cooperating with the state prosecutor and providing as much information as possible to put this matter to rest". There was no contract for the books, and some of the purchases were called "grants" in federal filings.

Before she was mayor, Pugh served on the state senate committee for that funded the UMMS. Legislation is pending in Maryland's capital focusing on board governance.

On Monday, John Ashworth, interim leader of the University of Maryland Medical System, said he believed nothing criminal took place. They are due to start work this week.

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