The illustrator of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s self-published “Healthy Holly” book series says he was unaware of her deal to sell $500,000 worth of the books to the University of Maryland Medical System, where the mayor sat on the board of directors until resigning this week.
What’s more, Andre Forde says, he’s never actually met his collaborator.
“She has an assistant who sends me information regarding the scope and idea of the next book,” he said in an interview Wednesday with The Baltimore Sun. “I’ve never met her in person.”
Forde, an artist and entrepreneur who grew up in Baltimore and moved to Orlando, Fla., in 1994, said he illustrated the books for free, but members of his team were paid — he declined to say who or how much — for “integrating the words and some coloring.”
Forde, 49, says a mutual friend connected him in 2008 with Pugh, then a state senator, who told him over a series of phone calls about her idea for a children’s book to help combat childhood obesity.
He had never illustrated a children’s book, he says, but he had done digital illustrations in the 1990s for educational entertainment software focused on mathematics. And growing up in Baltimore, he’d seen firsthand the saturation of candy, ice cream and other unhealthy snacks — especially in the city’s low-income communities — and felt driven to help Pugh emphasize the value of nutrition.
“I thought it was a great initiative,” Forde said. “I wanted to be a part of it.”
While his team was paid, Forde says he declined payments for illustrating the books. He didn’t need the money, he says, because Image Cafe, a company he co-founded that sold professional website templates to businesses, had been acquired by Network Solutions for $23 million in 1999.
Green is executive assistant to Kimberly Morton, Pugh’s former chief of staff who is now deputy director of the Department of Public Works. Green was transferred from the mayor’s office to public works along with Morton last year.
Green hung up on a Baltimore Sun reporter who called her cellphone Wednesday and did not respond to a follow-up voicemail message.
Forde says he found out about Pugh’s deal with the University of Maryland Medical Center this week after being contacted by The Baltimore Sun. He says he isn’t bothered by the mayor’s $500,000 in book orders from the hospital system whose board she sat on — and whose budget she oversaw as chair of the Senate Finance health subcommittee, which approved millions in state aid to the hospital system.
“I think there’s two sides of the story,” Forde said. “Anytime you’re publishing a paperback book, you have to pay for printing, distribution. … To me it was nothing, I wasn’t flabbergasted.”