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Federal Agents Raid Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's Home, Office And Nonprofit

Federal agents raided Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's offices Thursday following investigations into her "self-dealings." She sold thousands of her children's books to groups under her influence.




Federal agents from the FBI and the IRS raided Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh's home, office and a nonprofit she is affiliated with. Mayor Pugh is under investigation for hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments she received for her self-published children's books - called "Healthy Holly" - from private companies under her influence; those books are about nutrition and exercise. Several weeks ago, the mayor announced her leave from office after being hospitalized for pneumonia. She is still on leave, but the entire city council, many city leaders and the Maryland governor are all calling for her resignation.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter from member station WYPR in Baltimore. She joins us for the latest. And Emily, at this point, we haven't gotten confirmation that the federal raids are indeed connected to the investigation into her dealings with the children's book.

EMILY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: So we have gotten confirmation from Pugh's lawyer that records taken from his office are Mayor Pugh's. That lawyer said that they were served a subpoena as part of a federal investigation. And the IRS confirmed that they, along with the FBI, carried out the early morning activities at Pugh's house, at offices at city hall and at a nonprofit that Pugh used to lead. How we got here in the first place is, of course, the "Healthy Holly" book scandal. Pugh had struck up a deal with the University of Maryland Medical System to the tune of half a million dollars. Now this afternoon, the UMMS was served with a federal subpoena of its own for documents into an investigation into her business dealings.

CORNISH: Baltimore already had a former mayor who was ousted after fraudulently using gift cards. The police department has seen its own share of scandals. How are people in Baltimore reacting to this latest development?

SULLIVAN: So I spoke with one community leader and social worker, policy analyst Melissa Schober. She said it was distressing that the money funneled to Pugh could have been spent in other ways to help Baltimore. Here's what she told me.

MELISSA SCHOBER: These are our folks whose mission and interest, ostensibly, is to improve the health and well-being of the roughly 600,000 people who live here. And when they fail to do that and when they act in their own self-interest, they harm the reputation of the city, and they harm people's lives for years to come.

SULLIVAN: Walking around Baltimore, we also spoke to Justin Kaye (ph), who echoed the sentiments of Schober.

JUSTIN KAYE: By me being a Baltimore City resident, homeowner and taxpayer, I'm not happy with things in general. So I don't blame her, and I don't think it's one person's job; I think it's a whole system of things that need to change. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I don't think much is going to change with who the next person is, if the whole system doesn't change.

SULLIVAN: People are frustrated with everything that's gone into investigating Pugh. They think the time, money and energy that has gone into this could have served the city in much better ways.

CORNISH: Given all this public pressure, is there any indication that the mayor will resign?

SULLIVAN: So like you said earlier, a huge majority of Maryland elected officials have called on her to resign. Governor Hogan did so this morning, and the entire city council did a few weeks back. Now, Pugh broke her silence after the council's demand. She said that she's only out on medical leave, and that she fully intends to come back on the job. She hasn't commented on today's activities, and her fill-in, acting Mayor Jack Young, says she hasn't shared any details about her plans to come back with him. At this point, the length of her leave of absence remains unknown.

CORNISH: That's Emily Sullivan, city hall reporter for station WYPR in Baltimore. Thanks so much.

SULLIVAN: Thanks, Audie.


Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved.

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.