Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday formally asked the state prosecutor to investigate allegations of self-dealing and no-bid contracting involving Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh in her role as a member of the University of Maryland Medical System board.
The medical system paid Pugh $500,000 in five installments for copies of her self-published Healthy Holly children’s book series.
"I am writing to you to request that you investigate the matters and facts surrounding Mayor Catherine Pugh’s sales of thousands of books to the University of Maryland Medical System while she was a board member,” Hogan wrote in a letter to State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt. “These are deeply disturbing allegations. I am particularly concerned about the UMMS sale because it has significant continuing ties with the state and receives very substantial public funding."
Under Maryland law, the state prosecutor may investigate certain criminal offenses on his own initiative, or at the request of the governor, the attorney general, the General Assembly, the state ethics commission, or a state’s attorney.
“All Marylanders have an expectation that their public officials as well as individuals involved with institutions that are funded by and closely related to the State, will follow the highest legal and ethical standards,” Hogan wrote. “I understand and expect that you will fully investigate the matters that have been reported and that you will take all appropriate legal action in the event that your investigation uncovers any criminal wrongdoing.”
Davitt said Monday that his office never comments on whether it is or is not conducting an investigation.
Hogan is a Republican; Pugh is a Democrat.
Hogan’s letter does not indicate what state law could apply to Pugh’s sale of books to the medical system.
But last month, James Cabezas, a former investigator for the state prosecutor’s office, filed a complaint with his former agency.
In his complaint, Cabezas said Pugh deliberately did not report her Healthy Holly company in annual disclosure forms filed with the state ethics commission when she was a state senator.
He wrote that Pugh must have known she was required to report the children’s book company because she disclosed two other businesses in forms filed with the State Ethics Commission.
Omitting information on mandatory disclosure forms can result in perjury charges, if prosecutors can prove that government employees or elected officials knew they were required to report business interests and did not, Cabezas stated in his complaint.
Former Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance was convicted last year by the state prosecutor’s office for lying on similar disclosure forms filed with the school district about money he received from a contractor that did business with the school system.
Pugh’s reporting on state disclosure forms that she owns a “secondhand clothing store which trades as 2 Chic Boutique is evidence that she has the knowledge and experience to disclose her Healthy Holly LLC on her financial statement,” Cabezas wrote in his complaint.
Her use of the Healthy Holly company to sell a series of children’s books about health to the University of Maryland Medical System, where Pugh was on the board, “compels me to request an investigation of alleged perjury and the common law crime of criminal misconduct in the form of nonfeasance,” the complaint said.