Far from the Ashburton house where she has been holed up and unseen for the last five weeks, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned this afternoon.
“Today I am submitting my resignation to the Baltimore City Council,” Pugh said via a statement issued from a downtown law office.
“I am sorry for the damage that I have caused the city of Baltimore and the credibility of the office of mayor,” she said. The statement was read by her personal attorney, Steven D. Silverman.
“Baltimore deserves a mayor who can move our great city forward.”
(“Moving Baltimore Forward” was Pugh’s 2016 campaign slogan.)
Behind the phalanx of local and national reporters that Silverman faced as he read her words was a view of the Baltimore skyline and distant waterfront, visible from his 25th floor plate-glass windows.
“I want to thank all of our department heads and staff who worked hard every day to improve the quality of life for all who live, work and visit our city,” Pugh said.
Brought Down by Books
The statement also included a note of thanks to her successor, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, for his “steadfast leadership in my absence.”
With Pugh’s resignation today, Young automatically became Baltimore’s 51st mayor.
A staffer handed out copies of the resignation letter – signed by City Solicitor Andre M. Davis and sent earlier in the day to Young as Council President – that made Pugh’s decision official.
Young has been serving as acting mayor since Pugh took a leave of absence on April 1 amid the scandal over her undisclosed sales of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Healthy Holly children’s books to entities that do business with the city and state.
As the weeks stretched on following the March disclosure of the book sales, calls for her resignation mounted from state and local officials, including from Governor Larry Hogan and the entire Baltimore City Council.
Last week, FBI and IRS agents raided City Hall, Pugh’s two homes in Ashburton, her former accountant’s office and other locations, signalling to many that the end of Pugh’s political career was drawing near.
Young’s New Role
Young left Baltimore yesterday for a previously-scheduled conference in Detroit – and so was not in the city today for the mayoral baton passing. He is scheduled to return to Baltimore over the weekend.
But officials said he could become mayor from wherever he is located.
“Any swearing-in would be purely ceremonial,” his spokesman Lester Davis said.
Pugh closed her resignation letter with a kind of salute to her successor.
“I am confident that I have left the city in capable hands for the duration of the term to which I was elected,” it said, a reference to Pugh’s term of office that ends in December 2020.
Now it will be up to the plainspoken East Baltimore politician to lead a city battered in recent years by terrible violence, a civil riot, a police corruption crisis and other woes in addition to his predecessor’s Healthy Holly scandal.
“I wish you well in your new role as mayor of Baltimore City,” today’s statement concluded, signed “sincerely, Catherine E. Pugh.”