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As Mayor Pugh Takes A Leave, City Council President Jack Young Steps Into Office

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young became acting mayor on Tuesday, after Mayor Catherine E. Pugh stepped down from her role to take an indefinite leave of absence post Healthy Holly scandal fallout.

Pugh's office announced in a statement Monday that she would be taking the leave starting Tuesday, citing the first-term Democrat’s recent pneumonia and making no mention of the scandal.

"She has been advised by her physicians that she needs to take time to recover and focus on her health," the statement said. "At this time, with the Mayor's health deteriorating, she feels as though she is unable to fulfill her obligations as Mayor of Baltimore City. To that end, Mayor Pugh will be taking an indefinite leave of absence to recuperate from this serious illness."

Young is the default interim mayor – the Baltimore City Charter states that during "sickness temporary disqualification or necessary absence of the Mayor, the President of the City Council shall be ex officio Mayor of the City."

During a Tuesday press conference, ex officio Mayor Young said he was "heartbroken" from recent revelations.

"The past few weeks have been painful and traumatizing for all of us," he said.

When asked if he believes Pugh should step down, Young told reporters that he wanted to wait for the results of an investigation.

On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan formally asked the Maryland state prosecutor to investigate allegations of Pugh’s book deals and alleged no-bid contracts with the University of Maryland Medical Systems. On Tuesday, Pugh's lawyers confirmed to the Baltimore Sun that the state prosecutor has opened an investigation.

"I want them to continue to do their work while I do the work of moving the city forward," Young said in his news conference. "Baltimore is strong and resilient. And with the team that we have here, we want to make sure that the city moves forward."

Local politicians throughout the city expressed support for Young during Pugh’s leave of absence. Every member of the Baltimore City Council stood beside the ex officio Mayor during his press conference.

"Baltimore must move forward and deserves a Mayor who is able to provide their full attention to the issues facing our city most importantly the continued violence on our streets," Councilman Brandon Scott said in a Monday statement. "I am fully confident that Interim Mayor Young is capable of providing the steady leadership our city needs during this unprecedented time."

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton will act as council president while Young fills in for Pugh.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.