In an appearance on WYPR’s Midday with Tom Hall, Acting Mayor Jack Young said it’s “frustrating” he doesn’t know more about Mayor Catherine Pugh’s ongoing leave of absence and that he would “hate” to see her return.
During the hour-long, live Tuesday interview, Hall asked Young what Pugh’s return to office would look like. “I really don’t know,” Young answered.
Pugh began an indefinite leave of absence April 1st, citing health reasons, and Young, the city council president, became acting mayor in accordance with Baltimore City charter.
Pugh’s leave of absence came shortly after the Baltimore Sun reported that Pugh, then a board member of the University of Maryland Medical System, struck up a no-bid children’s book deal with the hospital network to the tune of $500,000. She has since resigned from the board, along with several other members also reported to have contracts with UMMS.
Despite calls for her resignation from a plethora of Baltimore City and Maryland state officials, Pugh says she “fully intends” to return to office.
But Young, who himself is currently battling a case of bronchitis, stopped short of adding his voice to the chorus.
“I'm not gonna come out and say that's self-serving for me to even mention that,” he said. “I'm wishing the mayor well and hope that she have a speedy recovery and give us some kind of idea if she's coming back or if she's not coming back.”
The indefinite leave is “a problem for me,” Young added. “I'm still handling the council president and the mayor and this kind of difficult with my schedule, and intertwining [ex officio Council President Sharon Middleton’s] schedule with my schedule.”
The Office of the State Prosecutor has confirmed it’s investigating Pugh’s book deals, but has not brought charges. All 14 members of Baltimore City Council called on Pugh to resign earlier this month, but council does not have the power to remove a mayor from office.
“There’s nothing that precludes her from returning back to work,” Young said. He noted that some council members are considering a charter amendment that would give them the power to toss a mayor. That charter amendment would require a vote before Baltimore residents, which cannot happen until the November 2020 election.
The ex officio mayor also acknowledged reports from the Sun that he had placed several Pugh aides on paid leave.
“As my executive team continues to vet what's needed and what’s not needed,” Young said. “We will fill those positions, as appropriate.”