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Baltimore Mayor Quits University Medical Board

March 19, 2019

Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh resigned from the University of Maryland Medical System’s Board of Directors after admitting that she had an 11-book deal with the system to write children's books about health.

The network spent $500,000 to buy 100,000 copies of her self-published Healthy Holly children’s books in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018, city and medical system officials told The Baltimore Sun.

A review by the Sun last week found that Pugh is one of nine members of the hospital network’s Board of Directors -- nearly one in three -- who have business deals with the system, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each. The goods and services they provide range from consulting to pest control to civil engineering, the Sun found. The system's 11 hospitals bring in more than $2 billion annually.

Pugh on Thursday amended financial disclosure forms with the state ethics commission for seven years, disclosing that her company, Healthy Holly LLC, sold books to the medical system since 2011. She has been a member of the board since 2001.

In an interview with the Sun, Pugh said board members do not vote on their own contract awards, and that her compensation met with legal requirements for “full disclosure.”

In addition to Pugh, former state senator Francis X. Kelly, who owns an insurance company, reported in 2017 that his company generated more than $1.6 million in revenue from system contracts. In 2018, Kelly & Associates Insurance Group made $2.8 million in revenue from such deals.

Another board member, August J. Chiasera, an executive at M&T Bank, reported on his 2017 form that the bank's deals with the medical system -- eight in all -- generated more than $3 million in revenue and fees. In 2018, the bank received $4.4 million from the system.

UMMS was created in 1984 when the state-owned University Hospital became a private, nonprofit organization. It continues to receive taxpayer money, the Sun reported, including $50 million for expansion of the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The state senate’s finance committee on Thursday is scheduled to hear testimony on legislation that would make it illegal for board members to profit from contracts with the hospitals they govern.

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