Minutes after Catherine Pugh’s resignation as Baltimore’s mayor was made public Thursday, some city leaders expressed relief and hope for a brighter future.
Pugh’s resignation is effective immediately, her attorney, Steven Silverman, said at a news conference. She did not attend, and Silverman took no questions.
Pugh went on medical leave April 1, with City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young Jr. filling in as acting mayor. Last week, calls for Pugh’s resignation were renewed after FBI and IRS agents raided her home, Baltimore City Hall and other locations as part of a federal investigation.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan
Hogan said in a statement, "This was the right decision, as it was clear the mayor could no longer lead effectively. The federal and state investigations must and will continue to uncover the facts. Baltimore City can now begin to move forward. The state pledges its full support to incoming Mayor Jack Young and to city leaders during this time of transition.”
Hogan joined Baltimore City Council members last month in urging Pugh to resign after The Baltimore Sun revealed that Pugh had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments for the books from the University of Maryland Medical System, beginning when she was a state senator. The hospital network has close ties to the state government, and Pugh was a member of its board.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller
“Today is a sad day for Baltimore,” Miller said in a statement. “I wish Mayor Young best wishes in his leadership of the City, and hope Baltimore can continue to move forward.”
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young
“For the past month, I have traveled the city and worked hard to keep government’s focus on providing essential services to our citizens,” Young said. “I have spent time in classrooms working with some of the brightest minds our public school system has to offer. I have unveiled a number of development projects that stand as symbols to the commitment that many people have to our city. I have convened several meetings of the Mayor’s cabinet, where I have stressed the importance of teamwork in delivering for the citizens that we’re privileged to serve.
“I pledge that my focus will not change. I have listened to the concerns of our citizens and I will continue to work diligently to address those concerns.”
City Solicitor Andre Davis
Davis said the City Council must now elect a new president but that he does not expect a vote for at least a week.
Standing in the center of the rotunda in City Hall, Davis told reporters that over the past 18 months in which he worked for Pugh, he came to admire her. “I saw a woman, a politician, an elected leader who was absolutely dedicated to this city,” Davis said while holding back tears. “I’m very sad. I didn’t think I would get emotional.”
As 3:30 p.m. rolled around at Mick O’Shea’s, Henry Wegrocki turned his attention to the small television in the corner. Pugh’s attorney walked on screen and announced the embattled mayor would resign, effectively immediately. “It’s about time,” the city lawyer said to friends who were gathered in the Irish pub downtown.
As news of Pugh’s resignation spread, some felt a sense of relief that her long leave of absence was over. Others felt the 69-year-old politician was unfairly maligned and should have been allowed to finish her term. Most, though, agreed that the leadership crisis over the last month has been painful for a city already grappling with poverty, crime and corruption.
“Baltimore has enough troubles,” said Africa Wright, a Marble Hill resident.
Wright, 41, voted for Pugh in the last election. But the book deals she had, reported in March by The Baltimore Sun, “just don’t look right.”
Earlene Taylor said the revelations about Pugh’s business dealings, combined with a recent FBI raid at her house, shattered her trust in the mayor.
“I voted for her, but when you lose trust in somebody, it’s hard to get it back,” said Taylor, 61, as she shopped at the Honey Carry-Out shop in Greenmount West.
Another woman picking up groceries there chimed in: “Everybody makes mistakes,” said Fatrina Holloway.
The 30-year-old woman isn’t convinced that Pugh committed any crime. She feels like there’s more to the story. And during her incomplete tenure, Holloway said, Pugh has “done a lot for the hood.”
Sandra Grate was also upset to hear Pugh resigned. She feels like politicians and others have ganged up on her to force her out of office.
“She may have done some things unethically, but how they’re doing her is just unfair,” she said. “It’s just a very sad thing. My heart goes out to her.”
Shantell “Nubia” Faulkner, a 46-year-old teacher and former city resident, said she believes that Pugh may have been targeted because she’s a black female, but added that she didn’t fully understand what the former mayor has done wrong.
Faulkner thinks Pugh resigned to try to temper the investigation, but she still wants her books to come out.
“Sister girl, go ahead and resign and get your books out,” Faulkner said.
Others, though, described the evidence presented so far against Pugh as damning and specific. Those people feel her resignation is the only way Baltimore can recover and move on from the scandal.
“Hopefully the person elected next has the city’s best interests in mind and not their own,” said Matthew Foody, director of the Alexander Brown restaurant. “I’m rooting for Baltimore.”
Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton
“Mayor Catherine Pugh made a decision I believe to be in the best interests of the citizens of Baltimore,” Middleton said in a statement. “She has served the city and we are better because of that service.
“Whether it is her fight for education dollars, housing, and economic development in long-neglected neighborhoods and her focus on violence reduction in our communities, now the work must continue. I am humbled by the positive interactions I have had as I have traveled around the city. Although this is a difficult time, Baltimore will move forward.
“As we begin this journey, we must remember we are One Baltimore and our future depends on each of us doing our part,” she said.
Councilman Brandon Scott
Scott said in a statement that Thursday marked “a day of relief and accountability for Baltimore.”
“Now the city can move forward with tackling the vast challenges facing Baltimore including improving our schools and reducing crime,” Scott said. “I look forward to working with all of our local, state and federal leadership to get Baltimore back on track.”
Councilman Bill Henry
Henry said in a statement the past seven weeks have been extremely trying for the city.
“Mayor Pugh’s health and legal problems have added unnecessary complications to the work of local government,” Henry said. “Those complications have been a distraction and that distraction has had a negative impact on the citizens we serve. Today, I’m glad that Mayor Pugh has made the decision to do what’s best for the people she took an oath to serve."
Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, which previously called for Pugh's resignation, said in a statement: "Catherine Pugh’s decision to resign as mayor of Baltimore today is in the best interest of the city.
“Her resignation provides Baltimore the opportunity to move forward without the distraction of the on-going investigations and speculation as to leadership in City Hall.
Maryland’s national representatives
In a statement co-signed by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, as well as Reps. Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes, Maryland’s national representatives echoed the statement, “we stand with Mayor Young today.
“As Baltimore federal delegation, we are focused on supporting Baltimore City and its federal priorities. We recently met with Jack Young in the US Capitol and directly expressed our desire to work as a coordinated ‘Team Maryland’ to ensure the people our great city are best serviced and respected be their elected leaders. We stand with Mayor Young today and will look the future hand-in-hand. Baltimore City has many challenges remaining, but together we will strengthen our community, bring safety and security to our neighborhoods and expand education and economic opportunities for those most in need.”
In a separate statement, Cummings said: “I wish Mayor Pugh the best as she continues to restore her health. No one ever questioned her passion for Baltimore City and its citizens, and I commend her for making this decision to put our City first.”
State Democratic Party Chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings
"Mayor Pugh's resignation affords Baltimore the opportunity to address its challenges with courage and optimism,” Rockeymoore Cummings said. “I applaud the responsive and diligent work of the Council, who have put forth a number of reform proposals aimed at preventing a similar leadership crisis in the future.
“In the coming months Baltimore residents and their elected officials will consider Charter Amendments and other proposals that will rethink the structure of City Government so that it can better serve the citizens of Baltimore. We must restore faith in the City's leadership, and I think thorough consideration of these reforms is an excellent place to start."
The Rev. Donte L. Hickman, pastor of Southern Baptist Church
The pastor of the east-side church whose senior housing complex under construction burned during the riot after the death of Freddie Gray praised Pugh for her support of his efforts to redevelop the surrounding neighborhood.
“I recall her saying to me, if we can get every church, every faith-based community to take [responsibility for] a block in front of their church, we could do so much,” Hickman said. “She was doing a lot substantively for inner-city communities. She was such an effective mayor until this came up.”
Bishop Douglas Miles, pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church in Baltimore
“It is never a joyful moment to see a person fall into disgrace and I wish her well as she goes forward,” Miles said. “I think it is the general consensus that Mayor Pugh would never be able to govern with any confidence across the city.
“We can no longer look for a super person out of the political arena to come save us — we must save ourselves,” Miles said.
“The question that Baltimore needs to be asking now is what do we want to look like in 2035,” he said. Miles said he believes the city should take the time “to build a vision that is not dependent upon any politician.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Phil Davis, Liz Bowie, Ian Duncan, Talia Richman and Jean Marbella contributed to this article.