Baltimore is once again beset by allegations of corruption. The city’s mayor, Catherine Pugh, is accused of bestowing contracts and political favors on companies and organizations that purchased large orders of her book. The scandal, plus rising crime and a lack of economic opportunity, keep Baltimore residents cynical about government. William Brangham talks to Paul Jay of the Real News Network.
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Federal raids on public buildings, and once again the city’s top leader besieged by allegations of corruption, all of this leading to more anger, cynicism and frustration in Baltimore, Maryland, once given the nickname Charm City.
William Brangham looks at the scandal that has become central in Baltimore, even as residents grapple with much bigger problems, like crime and a lack of economic opportunity.
It was a striking scene, federal agents raiding Mayor Catherine Pugh’s home yesterday, carrying out boxes of financial records and documents tied to a growing political scandal.
The FBI and IRS searched at least six Baltimore addresses linked to the mayor, including City Hall. It’s the first federal involvement in this growing investigation of Pugh.
The allegation against the mayor is that she took payments for her children’s book series called “Healthy Holly” when, in fact, the payments were really kickbacks. Since 2011, the University of Maryland medical system paid Pugh half-a-million dollars for 100,000 copies of the self-published books. She was a board member there for 18 years.
The CEO of that medical system resigned this afternoon. Pugh sold another $300,000 worth of books to other customers, including two health carriers that did business with the city. Last month, she apologized, her voice weakened by an apparent bout of pneumonia.
I am deeply sorry for any lack of confidence or disappointment which this initiative may have caused on Baltimore city residents, friends and colleagues.
Pugh has since taken a leave of absence and resigned her board seat at the university medical system. An acting mayor has stepped in. But calls for her to leave office permanently are growing.
In a letter earlier this month, Baltimore’s entire City Council wrote, “We urge you to tender your resignation, effective immediately.”
And this week, Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan said the same. Pugh is just the latest Baltimore mayor besieged by scandal. Her predecessor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, faced heavy criticism for how she handled the 2015 riots after a young black man named Freddie Gray died in police custody. She didn’t run for reelection.
Before her, Sheila Dixon resigned after being convicted of embezzlement. The city has also gone through four police commissioners in the last 18 months, while the city’s crime is surging. Homicides are up and arrests are down.
So let’s get some perspective from a longtime Baltimore journalist and resident. Paul Jay is the editor-in-chief…