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Second Canadian printer confirms it produced some of former Baltimore mayor's 'Healthy Holly' books

Second Canadian printer confirms it produced some of former Baltimore mayor's 'Healthy Holly' books
A selection of "Healthy Holly" books written by former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, a Democrat, who sold copies of the books to the University of Maryland Medical System while she was on its unpaid board of directors. (Jerry Jackson / The Baltimore Sun)

When FBI agents raided Baltimore City Hall, one of the dozens of items they seized was a UPS envelope containing a printer’s proof for a “Healthy Holly” book and an invoice from Premier Printing.

The document was the first indication that additional copies of former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s self-published children’s books were produced. Previously, Pugh provided paperwork that showed only that 60,000 of her children’s books were printed by another company, Kromar Printing of Winnipeg, Canada.

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The Democratic mayor, who resigned last week, sold far more copies than that — at least 130,000 — to the University of Maryland Medical System and to various other entities with business before the city. Federal and state authorities are investigating her business deals, have subpoenaed records from the medical system, and seized documents and books from Pugh’s City Hall office in the raid last month.

It was not clear whether the Premier Printing invoice taken during the raid at City Hall was related to her most recent production of books.

William Gortemaker, president of Premier Printing, confirmed Thursday that his company “produced Healthy Holly books on more than one occasion.” The company is also located in Winnipeg.

“They were ordered and produced and paid for,” he said.

He declined to provide more information about the orders — including how many were printed and when — because he said he wants to protect his clients’ privacy.

“I can say that we had no indication that there was anything untoward about the books,” he said.

The university medical system paid Pugh $500,000 for 100,000 copies of “Healthy Holly” books in five separate payments over the course of seven years, while she was a member of the system’s unpaid board. However, she recently returned $100,000 she received from the hospital network in 2018 for 20,000 books that were never produced.

Pugh said the books were supposed to be distributed to city school children; the school system has said it never asked for them.

During a City Hall news conference in late March, Pugh provided documentation showing that Kromar Printing had produced three batches of books, totaling 60,000 copies, to fulfill three separate $100,000 purchases by UMMS in 2012, 2013 and 2015. She also said the remaining 20,000 copies due to fulfill a fourth $100,000 UMMS purchase in 2017 were in production.

Kromar said it was not contacted about the fourth batch of books.

Steven Silverman, Pugh’s attorney, said Thursday that both Premier Printing and Kromar Printing “were engaged to print the various editions of the Healthy Holly series,” and that the 2017 order Pugh referenced at her news conference has been “printed and is ready for delivery.”

Asked whether he could produce an invoice for that printing, Silverman said, “I believe that any invoices are in the hands of the government and it’s up to the government to share.”

Asked why Pugh’s use of Premier Printing wasn’t disclosed, Silverman said it was because the “focal point” of inquiries about Pugh’s books at the time of the March news conference was on the UMMS purchases fulfilled through Kromar.

In addition to UMMS, several other entities with business before the city bought books from Pugh — including the health insurer Kaiser Permanente and the nonprofit Associated Black Charities. Kaiser Permanente paid Pugh more than $100,000 for about 20,000 books, while Associated Black Charities collected nearly $90,000 from five separate entities — including CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, another insurer of city employees — to buy and distribute 10,000 books.

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Pugh has not provided documentation to show those books were printed, though Kaiser said it received the books it ordered. J.P Grant, a Columbia businessman who paid Pugh’s company $100,000, left the distribution to her and only received one copy for himself. ABC said it received 4,100 books, while another 400 were water-damaged and discarded. The other 5,500 books the nonprofit paid for were left to Pugh’s Healthy Holly LLC to distribute.

Silverman said his office is reaching out to all entities that have said they purchased books to ensure the orders were filled.

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