The Healthy Holly scandal has widened beyond health care entities to a 35-year-old non profit, Associated Black Charities (ABC), which disclosed that it purchased $87,180 worth of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s self-published children’s books between 2011 and 2016.
ABC retained $9,552 of that amount for “general support,” according to a statement released late yesterday.
The funds to purchase 10,000 copies of the book were provided by organizations that ABC declined to name.
One of them is reportedly CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, which has said it paid $14,500 for 2,000 “Healthy Holly” books in 2011 and 2014.
Still unknown are the other organizations or individuals who purchased the books through ABC.
Another mystery: where all these books ended up.
According to ABC’s preliminary review, it received only 4,500 of the 10,000 books it purchased. Then state senator Pugh apparently kept the rest.
Pugh’s company, Healthy Holly LLC, “retained the responsibility to directly distribute the remaining 5,500 books paid for by donors,” the statement said. (Pugh’s personal attorney, Steven Silverman, has not responded to questions about where the books went.)
Defending ABC, president and CEO Diane L. Bell-McKoy said the group “took on this project with the goal of putting ‘mirror image’ books into the hands of African-American children to help them learn about healthy behaviors and to bring greater attention to the issue of health disparities.”
$9,552 to be Returned
ABC board chair Dominique Moore also asserted the group “acted with the right intentions.”
But she also said that after a review conducted over the last few days, the board “determined that aspects of these transactions did not conform to our high organizational standards.”
In the statement, Moore said ABC was sharing information about the book transactions “because ABC’s work is too important to allow even the perception of any wrongdoing to exist.”
3,000 books included a bookmark urging parents to read to their children and to thank author Catherine Pugh and the donors.
According to the statement:
• Of the books ABC did receive, 4,100 were “distributed to child care centers and youth-serving organizations in Baltimore and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.”
• Of the books that were distributed, “3,000 included a bookmark urging parents to read to their children and to thank the author Catherine Pugh and the donors.”
• Approximately 400 books were water-damaged and were not delivered and never replaced.
Moore said ABC’s directors unanimously voted to return the $9,552 fee it had retained either “to the original funders or it will be donated to a local charity focused on childhood health issues.”
Caring – and Connected
The board took a number of other actions, including “prohibiting ABC from entering into any business arrangements with any elected officials or any politically appointed persons, regardless of the person’s product and its relationship to ABC’s core mission and agenda.”
It also authorized an independent financial review to determine if any other ABC transactions involved an elected official or politically appointed official.
Dedicated to helping organizations remove race-based barriers in public policy and the workforce, ABC won a major role in city government earlier this year.
Last January, the Board of Estimates controlled by Mayor Pugh gave the organization responsibility for overseeing the $12 million youth fund pushed by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
The board’s action included $1.2 million to go to ABC for administrative costs.
In an arrangement reported last week by The Brew, the head of a politically-connected company that moved Pugh into her new house in Ashburton was able to purchase a condominium near Hanlon Park at a below-market price.
According to land records, the estate that previously owned the Hilton Street condominium gave half of the condo to ABC and half to the city. The condo was valued at nearly $50,000.
ABC sold its part of the unit to the city in February 2015 for $0.00. The city then sold the condo to Allen P. Burrus, Pugh’s mover, for $11,500 last September.
Pugh did not abstain from the Board of Estimates vote to approve the sale despite her connection with Burrus’ company, Allen & Son Moving & Storage. Burrus says he plans to rent out the unit.
McKoy, who has headed ABC since 2006, has not responded to a request from The Brew for further details on the condo transaction.