Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh released a statement early Thursday morning defending her deal with the University of Maryland Medical System to sell 20,000 of her self-published books at a price of $100,000.
Pugh, who sits on the medical system’s board of directors, said she fully conformed with legal disclosure requirements, filing a form about the deal with the Health Services Cost Review Commission.
“The University Maryland Medical System requested the purchase of a sufficient number of books to provide at no cost to some 20,000 Baltimore City school children (kindergarten through third grade), and did so through my company, Healthy Holly LLC, at a modest cost of $5 each,” Pugh said in the statement. “The net profit to my company after illustration, printing and shipping costs amounted to approximately $20,000 in each of the years that the University Maryland Medical System purchased the books. The gross revenue of $100,000 listed as ‘profits’ in my Board disclosure was incorrect.”
A review by The Baltimore Sun has found nine members of the University of Maryland Medical System’s Board of Directors — including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh — have side deals with the hospital network that are each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Members of Maryland’s business and political elite hold unpaid voting seats on the nonprofit system’s 30-member board. They govern 11 hospitals that bring in more than $2 billion annually from patients.
But as they oversee the hospitals’ work, about a third of appointed members receive compensation from the medical system through contracts with their businesses.
The state Senate’s Finance Committee is scheduled to hear testimony Thursday afternoon on legislation that would make it illegal for board members to profit from contracts with the hospitals they govern.
Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, sponsored the bill. She argues there need to be strict controls over how business is conducted at taxpayer-backed hospitals.
Pugh, who has been a member of the board since 2001, reported on her 2017 financial disclosure form making a profit of $100,000 after the hospitals bought 20,000 copies of her children’s book.
“UMMS purchased 20,000 ‘Healthy Holly’ books and $100,000 was my profit,” Pugh wrote on her disclosure form, listing her address as the mayor’s office.
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Mayor Catherine Pugh has announced a property tax cut for Baltimore homeowners that would roll the rate back to the lowest it has been in a half-century. By 2021, Pugh plans to drop the effective rate for owner-occupied homes to under 2 percent — or $1.99 per $100 of assessed property value.
“I became a publisher in 1979 and authored and published my first book nearly 25 years ago. Among my most rewarding preoccupations has been writing books for children that hopefully educate, elevate and inspire our young people to be the best that they can be and achieve their full potential. I wrote a book, Healthy Holly , a number of years ago to educate them in understanding the benefits of healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. The tragic results of neglectful and unhealthy lifestyles – in addition to the many other challenges that Baltimore City children face – are something that we confront each and every day and which I have worked to reverse throughout my public life.
“My children’s books have been sold both online and in other outlets over the years, in addition to being donated to any number of City schools by me personally during my regular visits. They have also been featured at the Baltimore Book Festival and the Children's Book Festival in Philadelphia.
“The University of Maryland Medical System provided a sufficient number of books at no cost to some 20,000 Baltimore City school children (kindergarten through third grade), and did so through my company, Healthy Holly LLC, at a modest cost of $5 each. The net profit to my company after illustration, printing and shipping costs amounted to approximately $20,000 in each of the years that the University of Maryland Medical System purchased the books. The gross revenue of $100,000 listed as ‘profits’ in my Board disclosure was incorrect.
“I have fully conformed with all disclosure requirements as a board member of the University of Maryland Medical System. If it is the decision of the General Assembly to change those requirements, I will, of course, comply with any and all new regulations. In the meantime, I hope that my books have been inspiring and instructive to our young people who need and deserve every indication that we care for them and their future.”