Why are government contract recipients buying this lawmaker’s books by the truckload?
04/20/2019 // Vicki Batts // Views

Nothing is safe from corruption -- not even books, apparently. The mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, is now facing resignation over a massive scandal involving her recently released children's book series, Healthy Holly. A number of businesses and organizations tied to Pugh have purchased hundreds of thousands of copies of her new book -- and all of them have recently received generous contracts with the city of Baltimore.

So far, Pugh is taking a leave of absence for an undetermined length of time due to "medical reasons." All 14 members of the city council have already signed and publicized a letter sent to Pugh, demanding her immediate resignation.

The letter consisted of only two sentences:

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. We urge you to tender your resignation, effective immediately.

Pugh claims she "will be back," but whether or not she will be welcome is another question.

Dirty dealings?

As The Baltimore Sun reports, local health insurance provider Kaiser Permanente paid Pugh over $100,000 for 20,000 copies of the Healthy Holly books. At around the same time, Kaiser also just so happened to receive a $48 million contract with the city of Baltimore.

The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) also purchased $500,000 worth of Healthy Holly books. Pugh was a member of the UMMS Board for 18 years. During her time as senator, she pushed legislation that would benefit UMMS. But that's not all. As sources report, the Baltimore Brew has uncovered an even darker side to Pugh's dealings with UMMS.


As reported:

Pugh’s financial and political ties to the University of Maryland Medical System go beyond books—three UMMS directors loaned Pugh $200,000 in the run-up to the April 2016 Democratic primary. The infusion of funds allowed Pugh’s “campaign to offer free meals, transportation to early polling sites and money—what opponents decried as ‘walk-around” money’—to precinct workers who brought voters to the polls,” according to the Brew.

The Brew reportedly asked UMMS for copies of the book sale contract with Pugh, invoices and checks issued to Pugh or her LLC in relation to the book. UMMC told them there was no contract and that it was a "sole-source purchase."

Nearly half of the 100,000 books purchased by UMMS are unaccounted for, according to reports. Pugh was one of nine UMMS board members to resign amid allegations of using their positions for personal gain. In the wake of that initial revelation, much more has been exposed.

More corruption

Associated Black Charities (ABC), a non-profit group that does business with the city,  also purchased $80,000 worth of Healthy Holly books.

The Sun reports that the city spending board awarded ABC with control of a $12 million "youth fund," as part of a deal which also gave the organization $1.2 million for "administrative costs."

All told, Pugh has sold nearly $700,000 (at least) in books to organizations she does business with that now have lucrative government contracts or other benefits. It is worth noting that for some time, Pugh maintained that UMMS was the only company to even purchase her books. Many are wondering what else the Baltimore government may be hiding.

Kaiser has already made a statement refuting any claims of unethical behavior or wrongdoing, stating their purchasing of the books had nothing to do with their 30-year relationship with local government. ABC also made a statement saying that their board re-examined their work with the mayor after the UMMS debacle was exposed -- and immediately passed a resolution to prohibit similar deals from being made in the future.

Across the board, it seems like these companies are doing some serious back-peddling to save face. Now that all these companies have government contracts, they're suddenly aware of the boundaries they crossed? Apologies and acts of contrition mean nothing when you've already gotten what you wanted out of the deal. But as they say: It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

See more coverage of stories like this at Corruption.news.

Sources for this article include:





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