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Young orders audit of ABC’s contract with city

Nonprofit, which manages youth fund, purchased $80,000 of Pugh's books

Acting Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young in Annapolis, where he met with members of the Baltimore City legislative delegation. At left is Sen. Antonio Hayes, chairman of the city delegation, and at right is Sen. William "Bill" Ferguson. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in Annapolis last week, where he met with members of the Baltimore City legislative delegation. At left is Sen. Antonio Hayes, chairman of the city delegation, and at right is Sen. William “Bill” Ferguson. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Baltimore’s acting mayor is ordering an audit of a city contract with a charitable organization that had purchased $80,000 of children’s books written by Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Ex officio Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced Thursday that he directed the city Department of Audits to review the management of the city’s Children and Youth Fund by Associated Black Charities. Young is also asking that a council bill that would extend the management agreement with the nonprofit for one year be put on hold.

“It is of the utmost importance that this fund continues to benefit the children and youth of Baltimore City,” Young said in a statement. “This fund represents our dedication to serving the youth of this city. Therefore, it is important to maintain the public’s confidence that the historic Children & Youth Fund is managed appropriately.”

The charity was put in charge of the fund in 2018. So far, it has awarded $10.8 million to 84 grantees and received $1.2 million in administrative fees for the first year of its stewardship. The Baltimore Children & Youth Fund, a $12 million non-lapsing fund, was approved by city voters in 2016, earning more than 80 percent of the vote.

Young was the prime architect of the endowment, which was created in 2015 before the funding mechanism was approved, and he served as its most prominent advocate. In his role as city council president, Young chaired the Board of Estimates, which approved the agreement with Associated Black Charities to administer grants from the fund. While the council president is chair of the city spending board, the mayor controls the majority of the five votes.

“Various news reports have noted that Associated Black Charities (ABC) received money from several entities in exchange for distributing copies of Catherine Pugh’s Healthy Holly books,” said Young. “I am aware that these payments came well before ABC was selected to administer the Youth Fund. I have no concern that ABC’s management of the Youth Fund is related in any way to its relationship with Catherine Pugh or Healthy Holly, LLC.

“Nevertheless, with an eye toward full transparency, I am calling for two steps to be taken to ensure that the historic Children & Youth Fund is well-managed,” said Young.

The charity has acknowledged soliciting $90,000 for the purchase of “Healthy Holly” books written by Pugh. Associated Black Charities issued a statement earlier this moth saying the book purchases were between 2011 and 2016.  Its leadership has since prohibited the organization from entering into business arrangement with elected officials, and the nonprofit is reviewing its vendor and conflict of interest policies.

Associated Black Charities gave Pugh the lion’s share of the money raised — about $80,000.

The books have become the focal point of a review of self-dealing by members of the board of the University of Maryland Medical System.

The hospital system paid $500,000 for the books to Pugh, who was a member of its board, in a no-contract arrangement that dates back to when Pugh was in the Maryland Senate.

Gov. Larry Hogan has asked the Office of the State Prosecutor to conduct an investigation into Pugh’s UMMS book deal as well as the financial relationship other UMMS board members have with the medical system.

Pugh has since resigned her position on the UMMS board. Pugh took a leave of absence as mayor on April 2, saying she needed to recover from a serious bout of pneumonia.

Young’s announcement Thursday evening is the latest in a series of steps he’s taken that suggests he sees his role as acting mayor as   being more than a caretaker.

Earlier this week three staff members in the mayor’s office were placed on leave after their dealings with another charity with ties to Pugh were revealed. The entire council membership, except Young, has called on Pugh to resign, as has the Baltimore City delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates.

Pugh has said, through a spokesperson, she intends to reclaim her job when her health improves.



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