The Chatter

Catherine Pugh’s Lawyer Expected to Announce Mayor’s Resignation This Afternoon

Baltimore’s scandal-plagued mayor has been on paid sick leave since April 1.

Mayor Catherine Pugh’s personal attorney is expected to announce her resignation at a press conference this afternoon.

After visiting Pugh at her Ashburton home Wednesday, Steve Silverman, the mayor’s lawyer, said he intended to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon at his downtown office. “At that time, I will be in a position to tell you her intentions are moving forward,” Silverman told reporters gathered outside Pugh’s home yesterday.

The scandal-plagued mayor, elected to her first term in 2016, has been on paid sick leave since April 1 following a bout of pneumonia.

The Baltimore Sun reported later Wednesday evening that City Solicitor Andre Davis had drafted a resignation letter for Pugh and handed it to Silverman before the lawyer visited with the mayor. Also Wednesday, roughly two dozen people gathered in front of Pugh’s home for a prayer vigil for the 69-year-old mayor.

Pugh, who has been embroiled in scandal since The Sun broke the story that the University of Maryland Medical System, upon whose board she sat, authorized $500,000 in purchases of her self-published Healthy Holly children’s book series.

FBI and criminal-division IRS agents raided Pugh’s Ashburton residence, another home owned by the mayor, City Hall, and a nonprofit once led by Pugh last Thursday morning. The mayor is also under investigation by the state prosecutor’s office.

The mayor’s book deals, made with companies with business before either the city or state of Maryland, began when she was a state senator. To date, it’s been alleged that $800,000 from sales has been funneled through her Health Holly limited liability company. In the wake of the charges of corruption and self-dealing, the entire 14-member City Council—save Council President Jack Young, the acting mayor in Pugh’s absence—Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore City’s contingent of state delegates, Comptroller Peter Franchot, and the Greater Baltimore Committee have called for Pugh’s resignation.

Three Pugh aides—Gary Brown Jr., Poetri Deal, and Afra Vance-White —have been fired by Young since Pugh took leave. Two of the mayor’s key staff, Karen Stokes, the city’s top lobbyist, and chief of staff Bruce Williams, are also no longer employed.

Since the revelations of Pugh’s book deals, there has been discussion among the city’s leaders about amending the Baltimore’s charter and the state constitution to enable the removal of a sitting mayor. As it stands, only a criminal conviction can trigger a Baltimore mayor’s removal from office.

A proposed charter amendment sponsored by District 8 Councilman Kristerfer Burnett last week would enable a three-fourths majority vote of the city council—after an investigation—to remove a sitting mayor. If passed by the council, the amendment would go on the ballot in November 2020 and need to be approved by voters.

The city council is also looking at other legislation that would shift some of the balance of power from Baltimore’s strong-mayor system to the council. Fourth District Councilman Bill Henry is sponsoring a charter amendment that would lower the majority of council members necessary to override a mayor’s veto from four-fifths to two-thirds. The council is also considering a third charter amendment that would provide members more authority in the city budget process.