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Sen. Ferguson calls on Baltimore Mayor Pugh to return $500,000 to medical system from book deal

State Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, on Monday called on Mayor Catherine Pugh to return hundreds of thousands of dollars she’s received from the University of Maryland Medical System while she sat on the hospital network’s board of directors.

Pugh on Monday said she had resigned from the board amid scrutiny over contracting practices involving board members. Pugh’s resignation came after the mayor encountered heavy criticism for failing to fully disclose the $500,000 business relationship she started in 2011 with the hospital system.

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“What the mayor did is questionable at best. I know she has resigned from the board,” Ferguson said. “I hope her next decision is to return the money that she received.”

A review by the Baltimore Sun found a third of the members of the hospital network’s board of directors had business deals with the system worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each. The goods and services they provided the system ranged from consulting to pest control to civil engineering.

Pugh had a book deal with the 11-hospital network, which spent $500,000 to buy 100,000 copies of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018, city and medical system officials told The Sun.

On Thursday, Pugh amended financial disclosure forms for seven years of reports filed with the state ethics commission. The new documents disclosed that she established her company, Healthy Holly LLC, which sold children’s books she wrote to the medical system.

Maryland lawmakers expressed serious concerns and called for an audit of the University of Maryland Medical System after learning nine of its 30 board members had business deals with the network.

“This is really bad,” Ferguson said. “It is seemingly a symptom of a larger problem. These quasi-public entities are not being held accountable. … This is really poor decision-making and will have lasting consequences.”

A spokesman for the mayor did not immediately respond to Ferguson’s comments.

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