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Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh looks toward Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, foreground, on March 18, 2019, at City Hall.
Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh looks toward Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, foreground, on March 18, 2019, at City Hall. (Kenneth K. Lam / The Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is planning to hold a news conference to address the controversy surrounding the $500,000 Healthy Holly book deal, once she is released from a hospital and healthy enough to appear in public, her spokesman said.

Pugh was hospitalized over the weekend with pneumonia. She didn’t appear last week for her weekly news conference.

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“The mayor looks forward to detailing to the media and public the arrangement with the University of Maryland Medical System to produce the ‘Healthy Holly’ children’s books, as soon as possible following her release from the hospital,” spokesman James Bentley said.

The event would be the first time the mayor publicly takes questions on the books since The Baltimore Sun reported this month that she struck a previously undisclosed deal with the University of Maryland Medical System to produce the children’s healthy lifestyle series.

Later Tuesday, the mayor’s office said an aide would sit in for Pugh at a weekly meeting Wednesday of the city spending board.

We went looking for Baltimore Mayor Pugh’s ‘Healthy Holly’ books. Here’s what we found.

From 2011 through 2018, the University of Maryland Medical System had a deal to spend $500,000 for 100,000 copies of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s self-published “Healthy Holly” book series.

The medical system paid Pugh for 100,000 copies of her self-published “Healthy Holly” books, in five orders of 20,000 books at $5 each, from 2011 to 2018.

Pugh has resigned from her seat on the UMMS board and pledged to give the most recent $100,000 installment of the book money back to the medical system.

But questions have continued to mount over the deal. The mayor has not released documentation demonstrating that 80,000 copies of the books that UMMS paid for were produced and distributed. The Sun has not been able to independently account for that many published books.

Pugh issued a statement Thursday saying she was “glad that the important messages in the book reached our city’s children.”

Pugh was on the board of the hospital system and served as a state senator during most of the time she received the payments, but did not properly disclose the deal on state ethics forms. A retired corruption investigator filed a complaint Monday with the Office of the State Prosecutor, alleging that Pugh’s failure to do so amounted to perjury.

In the statement last week, Pugh called the issue with the ethics forms an “oversight” and said she didn’t know why it occurred. She has filed amended forms that include her Healthy Holly business.

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