The Greater Baltimore Committee issued a call Friday for Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign, a repudiation of her leadership by the influential group of business and civic leaders who say she no longer has “public trust or moral authority.”
The group’s board voted unanimously in favor of issuing a statement calling on Pugh to go, concerned about revelations of hundreds of thousands of dollars in deals she struck to sell copies of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books.
“This was a difficult decision requiring a great deal of thought, but the GBC believes the mayor can no longer provide the leadership and effective government that Baltimore needs and deserves at this time,” said Donald C. Fry, the group’s president.
“The GBC Board determined that it is necessary for Mayor Pugh to resign so the city can move on, heal and leverage the many positive assets it has going for it.”
The group’s move deepens Pugh’s political isolation. On Monday morning, the City Council called on her to resign, and the city’s members of the House of Delegates followed suit that evening.
Pugh is on a leave of absence to recover from pneumonia that left her hospitalized as the controversy over the books was beginning to unfold. She has said through spokesmen that she intends to return to her duties once she is well enough.
She did not respond to a request for comment on the GBC’s statement.
The board’s membership includes senior leaders from some of Baltimore’s most important institutions. Former Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Johns Hopkins President Ron Daniels, Orioles owner Peter Angelos, Morgan State University President David Wilson, Catholic Archbishop William Lori and Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank are all members.
The Baltimore Sun’s publisher and editor in chief, Trif Alatzas, also is a member of the board.
Fry declined to say which of the board’s 64 members attended the meeting Friday approving the resignation call.
Pugh has ties to many of the board’s members. BGE Chief Executive Calvin Butler, the board’s vice chairman, is a close ally and was a leader on Pugh’s mayoral transition team. Lawyer Jon Laria, another board member, served on her inauguration committee.
At a meeting of the board in 2017, Pugh secured a commitment for $6.5 million to fund the anti-violence program Roca, which she pitched as a key part of her crime-fighting plan.
The board’s members also were a source of campaign contributions for Pugh. Between her successful 2016 mayoral run and fundraising efforts for a re-election campaign, she received $40,980 from 15 of its members.
But the controversy over the books has touched businesses and other institutions across Maryland, including several whose leaders sit on the GBC board.
Pugh was paid $500,000 by the University of Maryland Medical System for 100,000 of her self-published books to distribute to schoolchildren. The no-bid arrangement was made while she was on the hospital network’s board. Pugh was one of nine of the UMMS board’s 30 members who had deals with the hospital system benefiting their private companies.
The GBC said that Associated Black Charities director Diane Bell-McCoy, M&T Bank executive August Chiasera and insurance company chief executive Francis Kelly III did not take part in the debate or the vote because they “have been referenced in news reports surrounding Mayor Pugh’s activities.” UMMS head Robert Chrenick no longer has a seat on the board because he is on leave from his post at the hospital network.
Associated Black Charities coordinated purchases of the “Healthy Holly” books, taking donations from other entities to pay for them. Acting Mayor Bernard C. Jack Young has called for an audit of the $12 million city youth fund that Associated Black Charities administers.
Chiasera is on leave from the UMMS board while the system reviews the deals with board members. M&T Bank does millions in business each year with the hospital system.
Kelly is CEO of Kelly & Associates Insurance Group. Members of his family have taken leaves of absence from boards related to the medical system. The company generates millions annually from business with the hospitals, but has defended the business as aboveboard, saying some of it was won before the hospitals were affiliated with the system.