Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, currently under fire for a bizarre scandal in which she allegedly awarded city contracts to those who purchased bulk orders of her children’s book, had her home and office raided Thursday. Now, according to one report, she may have fled the state.
On Thursday morning, a joint FBI/IRS raid searched Pugh’s office, the nonprofit that she formerly led, and at least two of her residences, although the mayor has not been arrested or charged with a crime. Per Baltimore’s CBS affiliate, while Pugh was present for the raid, she has since reportedly fled the state, and it appears no one knows exactly where she is.
Pugh has been on a leave of absence for the last several weeks while she recovers from pneumonia.
Elected in 2016 as Baltimore’s 50th mayor, Pugh’s mayoralty has been engulfed this spring by a scandal involving, of all things, children’s book sales. According to The Baltimore Sun, Pugh wrote a children’s book called “Healthy Holly.” Over the course of many years, the University of Maryland Medical System paid her a nice sum of money for thousands of copies of the book, which has since become a series.
The arrangement, once Pugh became mayor, had been replicated with other companies, including Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities, who agreed to pay Pugh directly for copies of the book. This coincided with Pugh beginning the health-related leave of absence, following a recent hospitalization for pneumonia.
According to the newspaper, the raids indicate that authorities have probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed – and that it’s possible they are looking into whether Pugh may not have properly paid taxes on the money she received from the book sales.
The fate of the actual books is unclear. Amazon lists one used copy of the “Healthy Holly” book for $199.
Among the locations being raided by the FBI in Baltimore:
+ City Hall
+ Two homes owned by Mayor Catherine Pugh
+ The Maryland Center for Adult Training
+The office of Pugh's attorney, Steven Silverman
+ Home of Pugh aide Gary Brown Jr. https://t.co/KpinYvK3cC
— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) April 25, 2019
Several members of Baltimore’s city council have called on Pugh to resign, while Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, issued a similar call following the raids on Thursday, per The New York Post. Hogan also said on Twitter that he had directed the state prosecutor to investigate Pugh’s financial dealings, which he implied had led directly to the raid.
“Now more than ever, Baltimore City needs strong and responsible leadership,” the governor tweeted Thursday. “Mayor Pugh has lost the public trust. She is clearly not fit to lead. For the good of the city, Mayor Pugh must resign.”