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Three City Hall aides to Baltimore Mayor Pugh put on leave

Three City Hall aides to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh have been put on leave, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The aides are Gary Brown Jr. and Poetri Deal, who work in the city’s lobbying office, and Afra Vance-White, who is the city’s director of external relations, the source said.

Pugh is on an indefinite leave of absence as she recovers from pneumonia.

Asked about the move Wednesday, Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who is serving as acting mayor, called the action a personnel decision and referred questions to the city solicitor.

“I cannot discuss that,” Young said.

City Solicitor Andre Davis declined to comment. The aides themselves did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Brown, Deal and Vance-White have close ties to Pugh outside of their roles in city government.

A page on a website for the Maryland Center for Adult Training, a nonprofit job-training program once led by Pugh, listed the three as of March 6 as members of the center’s board of directors. The page has since been taken down.

The city awarded the center a contract worth $28,649 over the last two years to pay for training regulated by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The center’s tax forms state that it also received $204,834 in state grants.

Also, Pugh and Vance-White are co-owners, along with city Comptroller Joan Pratt, of 2 Chic Boutique, a consignment store in the Pigtown neighborhood.

In 2017, Brown pleaded guilty to a campaign finance charge after the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office found he used bank accounts of some of his relatives to donate $18,000 to Pugh’s 2016 mayoral campaign. He received probation before judgement. Pugh stood by Brown after his prosecution, calling him a “good employee” and letting him keep his job at City Hall.

Deal, Brown and Vance-White are being paid while on leave, the source said. According to city records, Vance-White’s annual city salary is $117,300, Deal is paid $100,737 and Brown $62,220, according to city records. Vance-White and Brown began working for the city days after Pugh was sworn in as mayor in December 2016. Deal joined in January 2017.

Their leave is the latest personnel move since Young took over last week as acting mayor. On Friday, James Smith, Pugh’s chief of strategic alliances, submitted his resignation while offering to stay on until April 19 to help Young transition into his new role.

Pugh began her leave as she faced mounting questions about sales of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System while she was on its board of directors. On Saturday, her spokesman said she planned to return to her duties as mayor once she as well, prompting the City Council to call on her to resign.

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