Baltimore City Council Passes New, Tighter Ethics Rules In Wake Of Pugh Self-Dealing Scandal

Written by Ann Brown

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned earlier this year after a scandal involving a book deal she had. And now this has created a call by the city council to strengthen ethics laws for city employees.

“Councilman Ryan Dorsey said he sponsored the bill because he believes the current requirements are too vague or not enforced and therefore too easy for some to just not file disclosures,” WMAR 2 News reported.

Pugh failed to disclose her sale of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of her Healthy Holly books.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh walks on the Maryland House of Delegates chamber floor before Gov. Larry Hogan’s annual State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Annapolis, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Pugh made a deal for the sale of a half-million dollars worth of books to the University of Maryland Medical System, while sitting on its board. She was also accused of “collecting some $800,000 to produce her self-published ‘Healthy Holly’ children’s books. The medical system, which she helped oversee as a board member, paid her $500,000. Pugh also accepted payments from other entities that she approved to do business with the city, including Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities,” The Baltimore Sun reported.

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She apologized and stepped down from office in May saying, “it was in the best interest of the people.”

Dorsey’s bill, passed by city council 15 to 0, will make it easier for city employees understand who must file a financial disclosure. It also included a new process and penalties for identifying people who fail to file.

Under the bill, city employees must  disclose directorships or board memberships.

Pugh resigned from office in May after After The Baltimore Sun uncovered the UMMS payments, Pugh amended several years of disclosure forms with the state, as she served as a state senator during a period when such deals were made, to list payments she received.

“We take this very seriously,” City Council President Brandon Scott, a Democrat, said of the legislation. “We’re going to look to improve transparency and accountability wherever we can.”