As questions mount regarding now nearly $700,000 paid to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh for her “Healthy Holly” line of books, The Baltimore Sun asked readers to send in their most pressing questions about the controversy.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s Facebook Live question-and-answer session with reporters Doug Donovan and Liz Bowie along with opinion editor Andrew Green.
1. So what happens next?
With all the information we now know about Pugh’s ‘Healthy Holly’ series of books, “What’s next for Pugh and Baltimore?” can be a difficult question to answer with investigations underway.
Gov. Larry Hogan has asked the Office of the State Prosecutor to conduct a criminal investigation into Pugh, and the University of Maryland Medical System is conducting its own internal probe. Pugh’s lawyer confirmed Tuesday that the state prosecutor has opened an investigation.
Donovan said it’s more likely to see answers come faster from UMMS’s probe than from State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt.
The system’s board has hired an outside firm to do an internal investigation.
It’s a group that specializes in internal probes, so Donovan said he believes “they’ll probably operate pretty quickly, especially since the board has ordered everyone to cooperate with this probe.”
With Hogan and the General Assembly eyeing the probe’s result, Donovan said, they’d have extra incentive to finish the investigation in a timely manner.
2. Health Holly visits the state Senate
While much has been made about Pugh’s deal with UMMS while she has been Baltimore’s mayor, it may be her time in the state Senate that could cause her more issues.
Green pointed out that Pugh — who served as both a delegate and state senator in the General Assembly from 2005 to 2016 — could face more questions as to her time in Annapolis.
Pugh sponsored dozens of bills affecting hospitals in the state, including several that would have benefited UMMS, while she was on the medical system’s board of directors and receiving book payments from it.
Donovan called it “probably the most problematic time frame” due to UMMS having a vested interest in some of the legislation being passed.
“To be there advocating for legislation for the University of Maryland Medical System is OK,” Donovan said. “But not if you are getting paid from them for this side deal that was never really, fully, transparently disclosed.”
3. Book didn’t make the grade
Baltimore City Public Schools are also tied to the scandal, with the school system saying it received unsolicited copies of the book and that about 8,700 copies were sitting unread in a warehouse.
The book was not used for any curriculum, but it was reviewed for possible in-class instruction.
As to reader Megan Barnes’ question of whether the book is good, Bowie said the school system’s chief academic officer reviewed the book and officials decided to not include it in instructional material, “but they would be fine with students getting copies if they wanted them.”
4. Healthy hospital
Despite the $500,000 UMMS paid Pugh for her books, there isn’t any indication that it had any real impact on patient care at Maryland’s hospitals.
Twitter user @lurkingcats1 asked if the book had impacted public health decisions, and Green said the city’s health department hasn’t been involved in the scandal.
Donovan added that UMMS “made it quite clear” that any deals that involved the system’s board of directors did not affect patient care at any hospitals.
“It’s so far removed from, like, patient-doctor care,” Donovan said.
5. Unanswered questions
Our astute readership asked a number of questions about the scandal that we at The Sun would also like answers to as well.
“How was a deal done with the [Board of Education] and State Hospital without any contracts, due dates, or receipts?” asked Twitter user @Nikkisuglytruth
“Can a mayor just unilaterally decide to place themselves on indefinite payed [paid] leave?” asked Twitter user @joedaceytweets
Could Pugh face potential criminal charges and a prison sentence, or are her actions merely unethical if not illegal? Will Pugh’s absence have an effect on the saga regarding the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course?
All great questions that we’ll keep asking until we hear answers.
But as much as we’ve learned from Pugh, UMMS and Maryland officials about the breadth of the mayor’s book deals, it’s clear more will be revealed in the days to come.
You can watch the full Facebook Live Q&A below.