The entire Baltimore City Council has asked for Catherine Pugh’s immediate resignation in writing and Monday evening, the Baltimore City delegation of the Maryland General Assembly held a press conference in Annapolis to also ask for the mayor’s resignation as well (“Baltimore City Council calls on Mayor Pugh to resign; she says she intends to return,” April 8). Amid this unprecedented public rebuke, Mayor Pugh has said she intends to return to her duties when her health allows. It seems the mayor is not planning to go anywhere, so the next step seems to point to Annapolis.
As mentioned above, members of the Baltimore City delegation to the General Assembly joined their City Council colleagues to ask Mayor Pugh to resign. However, the press conference has the same effective weight as the letter signed by every member of the Baltimore City Council — which would be none. The solution to the “Healthy Holly” debacle is a surgical use of the state’s Constitution — impeachment and removal of an local elected official. This type of procedure has never occurred but it does not mean it cannot occur.
First, states throughout the country have a variety of constitutional remedies for removing local elected officials. New York allows for their governor to remove elected officials. Michigan allows for the governor to act as well as a recall election. California allows for recall elections of state and local officials — most notably former Gov. Gray Davis. Maryland’s Constitution (Article XI, Section 6) allows for the governor to remove the mayor of Baltimore because of “misbehavior in office.”
Second, the state of Maryland has constitutional standing to remove elected officials. The Maryland General Assembly has the authority to impeach and remove elected officials from office. Impeaching the mayor does not require legal due process of a criminal court. Third, the state routinely alters the form of government in local jurisdictions including the election of local education authorities (school boards) and changing local charters from county commissioners to county executive and council configurations (Frederick).
The remedy is simple yet complicated. Gov. Larry Hogan has the power to call a special session for the express purpose of impeachment and removal of Mayor Pugh. The special session can also handle the delicate business of electing a new speaker within the House of Delegates. A simple majority of the House is needed for impeachment while two-thirds of state senators must endorse conviction. The Democratic super-majority which has proven itself able to override Governor Hogan’s vetoes could reach the two-thirds mandate expeditiously — especially when the Baltimore City delegation has gone on record asking for the mayor’s removal.
Signatures on a joint letter and press conferences are good for perception and the CYA of politics. It is time for the governor and the General Assembly to act. There is a constitutional remedy for the Healthy Holly mess. It is time to use the power of the Maryland General Assembly for the good of all Marylanders!
Tony Campbell, Towson