More than 8,000 copies of a children’s book written by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh are sitting in a Baltimore school system-owned warehouse, according to a spokeswoman.
The mayor has come under fire after The Baltimore Sun reported that Pugh had failed to fully disclose a longstanding business deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where she served as a board member until this week. The hospital system has purchased $500,000 worth of “Healthy Holly” books, which Pugh self-published, between 2011 and 2018.
Pugh previously said in a statement that roughly 100,000 copies of Healthy Holly books were purchased by UMMS to be distributed by the hospital system to children in schools and daycare centers.
City schools spokeswoman Anne Fullerton said that the district has not been able to locate documentation related to book shipments, but that staff members recall a shipment of “unsolicited” copies being delivered between 2011 and 2013. She said the school system can’t confirm how many books were received or the number of books handed out to students.
“However, we can confirm that approximately 8,700 copies of Healthy Holly: Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow are currently located in a district warehouse,” she wrote in an email. “We have no record of any subsequent shipments or donations, and staff members have no recollection of any shipments beyond the one dating from the 2011-13 period.”
Pugh resigned from the UMMS board of directors Monday.
“It has been an honor to have been associated with the important work of the UMMS Board, but the fact is, I have many other pressing concerns that require my full attention, energy and efforts,” she said in a statement.
A third of the members of the hospital network’s board of directors had business deals with the system worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each, according to a review by The Sun. The goods and services they provided the system ranged from consulting to pest control to civil engineering.
The revelation has sparked outrage in the General Assembly: House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch — who also sits on the medical system’s board — said he can’t “remember a scandal of this scale taking place since I’ve been in office.” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the hospital system’s “self-dealing” represented a “huge disaster” for the state. Gov. Larry Hogan has called for reforms.
The governor called Pugh’s resignation from the board “a good step in the right direction.”
The fruit-themed book that’s being stored in a district warehouse is the third volume in the Healthy Holly series. It’s roughly 20 pages long and follows Holly as she accompanies her parents on a trip to the grocery store where, as a surprise, she gets to pick out the produce.
Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this report.