Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is taking a leave of absence in the wake of a book controversy.

The Baltimore Sun reports Pugh is believed to have sold 20,000 copies of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books to Kaiser Permanente, a health provider who reportedly wanted to sway Pugh to grant them a lucrative contract. Kaiser Permanente was one of a handful of health providers vying to provide benefits to city employees. She allegedly sold the books for an estimated $114,000

According to a statement from Pugh's office, she will focus on recovering from pneumonia while on leave. 

“Mayor Catherine Pugh has been battling pneumonia for the past few weeks," a statement read.

"She has been advised by her physicians that she needs to take time to recover and focus on her health. At this time, with the Mayor’s health deteriorating, she feels as though she is unable to fulfill her obligations as Mayor of Baltimore City. To that end, Mayor Pugh will be taking an indefinite leave of absence to recuperate from this serious illness."

Pugh served on the board of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) while serving as mayor. According to The Sun, she was forced to resign due to her selling 100,000 books for $500,000 to the UMMS.

The 69-year-old's attorney, Steven Silverman, did not dispute the business transactions between Pugh and several companies. “I’m not able to give a rundown of every sale to every entity,” Silverman said.

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Kaiser Permanente worked with Pugh from 2015 to 2018. Nonprofit organization Associated Black Charities worked with her from 2011 to 2016, collecting payments totaling nearly $90,000 from five separate entities — including CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and others. 

Kaiser Permanente sent several statements to The Sun disputing allegations claiming the book deals were bribes. 

“Our purchase of the Healthy Holly books nearly 30 years after being selected as one of the health plan providers for the city employees has no connection with our commitment to continue offering our care to Baltimore City government employees,” the statement said.

CBS Baltimore reports Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan will open an investigation into the matter. Prosecutors will primarily look into the University of Maryland Medical Center book dealings. 

Other members of the city's government are calling for Pugh's resignation. As of this report, the politician has no intention of resigning. 

In the meantime, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young will serve as Baltimore's acting mayor. 


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