Since April 1, Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh has been on an indefinite leave of absence due to “health” reasons, according to the Baltimore Sun. But her chances of coming back to work are not looking good. Pugh is being investigated for selling copies of her children’s book series Healthy Holly, which revolves around the positive effects diet and exercise can have on a child’s life, for $500,000 to the University of Maryland Medical System, where Pugh once sat on a volunteer board of directors.
On Thursday, FBI agents, along with the IRS, raided her home, her attorney’s office, and City Hall. Authorities also searched at “at least three other addresses associated with Pugh,” according to the Sun.
The response to the Healthy Holly scandal from other local politicians has been swift. The governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, has called for a criminal investigation into Pugh’s dealings, and a city councilman, Brandon Scott, called for Pugh to resign:
“Baltimore needs to move forward and heal from this embarrassment. Baltimore is a great and resilient city, but we can’t waste anymore time on this issue,” Scott said in a statement. “There are many important issues in front of us that require the complete attention of a full-time mayor. Our focus must continue to be fighting crime and improving the schools in our city.”
It wasn’t just the UMMS that Pugh was allegedly doing under-the-table business with. The Sun reported that “during a period when the company was seeking a lucrative contract to provide health insurance to city employees,” Health insurer Kaiser Permanente spent $100,000 on 20,000 copies of Pugh’s books. In return, the insurer received a $48 million contract with the city.
Pugh has brought in some $800,000 in Healthy Holly sales since 2011, specifically from deals with local organizations that had business relationships with the city of Baltimore. According to USA Today, Pugh apologized for her “regrettable mistake” with UMMS and returned the money—but not before calling the whole thing a “witch hunt.”