Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced she is taking a leave of absence for health reasons amid a scandal over the University of Maryland Medical System paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars for copies of her self-published children’s books, The Baltimore Sun reports. A statement from Pugh’s office said she has been “battling pneumonia” and needs “time to recover and focus” on her well-being. “To that end, Mayor Pugh will be taking an indefinite leave of absence to recuperate from this serious illness,” the statement read. Pugh was reportedly treated for five days last week for pneumonia at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Council President Bernard Young will reportedly fill Pugh’s place as mayor on a temporary basis.
The newspaper previously reported that Pugh’s self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books about health and fitness were sold to the University of Maryland Medical System for $500,000 while she served as a board member. UMMS reportedly bought 20,000 copies of Pugh’s books at $5 each. The mayor has since resigned from the board. Pugh also reportedly received $100,000 from Kaiser Permanent for her books, and in 2017, the city’s spending board gave the health insurer a $48 million contract. According to the Sun, Pugh subsequently paid back the $100,000—but said in a statement that she was proud of the books and called questions about the UMMS deal a “witch hunt.” In a press conference last week, Pugh apologized for her previous remarks and said the UMMS deal was a “regrettable mistake.”