Baltimore mayor takes leave of absence as scandal over her self-published children's book deepens
On Monday, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced that she was taking an “indefinite leave of absence,” a move that made City Council President Jack Young acting mayor. Pugh, a Democrat who is up for re-election next year, said she was taking some time off because of pneumonia. However, her move comes as scrutiny intensifies about her self-published children’s book series “Healthy Holly,” which the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) purchased from her for a total of $500,000 while she served on its board. On Tuesday, Pugh’s attorney said that the State Prosecutor’s Office was investigating the sale.
The Baltimore Sun has a rundown of this strange scandal. A little less than a decade ago, Pugh created a character named Healthy Holly who was intended to teach children about exercise and nutrition. After she showed other members of the UMMS board her prototype for her first book, which became “Healthy Holly: Exercising is Fun!,” they agreed to pay her $100,000 for 20,000 copies that were to be distributed in schools. Over the following years, UMMS paid her another $400,000 for the next four editions in the series, a total of 80,000 books and an absolutely massive amount of money in the children’s book publishing industry.
They weren’t the only ones who put down big money for this series. The healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente paid her $100,000 for 20,000 copies from 2015 to 2018 while the nonprofit Associated Black Charities raised $90,000 to buy Healthy Holly books, including from the citywide insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and most of that amount went to Pugh. Wealthy businessman and political donor J.P. Grant also revealed this month that he’d paid $100,000 to “Healthy Holly LLC” to aid the distribution an unknown number of copies.