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Hopkins says Pugh sought to sell it ‘Holly’ books

City ethics board discloses more donors to ABC for book purchases

Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. (File Photo/Maximilian Franz)

Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. (File Photo/Maximilian Franz)

An employee of Johns Hopkins Health System was approached by then-Sen. Catherine Pugh about buying her “Health Holly” children’s books but declined, a system spokeswoman said Wednesday.

At the time, Pugh sat on the Senate Finance Committee, the panel responsible for legislation affecting hospitals.

Johns Hopkins University and the health system each have no record of ever purchasing Healthy Holly books, the spokeswoman said.

Also Wednesday, all five companies that bought Mayor Catherine Pugh’s Healthy Holly children’s books through Associated Black Charities were disclosed by the Baltimore City Ethics Board, which has opened an investigation.

Five entities bought Healthy Holly books across six transactions totaling $87,000.

Most of the transactions happened while Pugh was still a state senator. But the Frederick Frank Trust, a charitable foundation, purchased $50,000 worth of books just weeks after Pugh took office in 2016.

The list of donors to Associated Black Charities also includes Grant Capital Management, a financing firm for public projects; CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Maryland’s largest health insurer; Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, the state’s quasi-public auto insurer; and Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based investment firm.

CareFirst and Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund all had business before the Senate Finance Committee, Pugh’s committee when she was a senator.

Overall, in its disclosure to the City Ethics Board and the Maryland State Ethics Commission, Associated Black Charities said it received $87,000 to pay for 10,000 books. It retained $9,552, money Associated Black Charities said it will return.

Of the 10,000 books ordered, Associated Black Charities said it distributed 4,100 books and another 400 books were water-damaged in 2014 and not delivered.

In a statement Monday, Diane Bell-McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities, said the organization wanted to put picture books in front of black children with characters that looked like them.

“We have carefully reviewed these transactions and have taken steps to ensure a situation like this does not occur again,” she said. “ABC is proud of its record of addressing racial disparities in Baltimore and throughout Maryland, and we remain committed to the highest standards in our fundraising, grantmaking and service delivery.”

CareFirst contributed $7,000 in 2011 and $7,500 in 2014 to Associated Black Charities to purchase books but declined to purchase books in 2017, the company said in a statement.

“CareFirst did not purchase the books,” the company said. “CareFirst made contributions to Associated Black Charities (ABC) in 2011 and 2014 to fund ABC’s purchase and distribution of books. ABC confirmed that these contributions were used to purchase and distribute Healthy Holly books.  Questions related to how the books were purchased should be directed to ABC. Our contributions were to fund the purchase and distribution of 2,000 books.”

The Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund said its $5,000 payment for 600 books in 2013 was done by a former executive director. It has reported the transaction to the Maryland Insurance Administration, its regulator.

Grant Capital Management donated  $14,000 for 2,000 Healthy Holly books. $2,000 of that contribution was retained by Associated Black Charities. A request for comment has not been returned.

Ariel Investments donated $3,680 for 400 books that were shipped to Ariel for an African-American Executive Leadership conference, Associated Black Charities said. Ariel said it did not have a record of the transaction.

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