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GBC calls on Baltimore Mayor Pugh to step down as her allies remain silent

Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

The Greater Baltimore Committee, a prominent regional business advocacy group, on Friday joined calls for Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign.

Its board of directors called on Pugh to step down, adding its voice to others, including the Baltimore City Council. Pugh has been accused of ethical violations stemming from the sale of her self-published children’s books.

“This was a difficult decision requiring a great deal of thought, but the GBC believes the Mayor can no longer provide the leadership and effective government that Baltimore needs and deserves at this time,” Donald C. Fry, Greater Baltimore Committee president and CEO, said in a statement. “The GBC board determined that it is necessary for Mayor Pugh to resign so the city can move on, heal and leverage the many positive assets it has going for it.”

The stance by Greater Baltimore Committee places it alone among other regional civic organizations. Groups, such as the NAACP, Baltimore Urban League, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, as of Friday, have declined to take a position on Pugh’s future.

Pugh, who often touted her background in business, has experienced an occasionally rocky relationship with Baltimore’s business community.

Businesses interests, particularly downtown, have expressed frustration with her handling of the police department and the city’s inability to substantially reduce violent crime, which predated her election and has persisted after Pugh took office in December 2016.

In recent days the embattled mayor’s staff said she intends to return to office once she recovers from a case of pneumonia. The 69-year-old mayor took a leave of absence starting April 2 as state and city elected officials requested investigations into the sales of her children’s book series, “Healthy Holly,” to the University of Maryland Medical System, Kaiser Permanente and the Associated Black Charities, among others. Pugh has received at least $800,000 from the sales.

Allies of the mayor have been largely quiet. Baltimore Call to Action, a group of community activists, clergy and small nonprofits created by the mayor, on Wednesday held a rally outside of City Hall. The activists praised Pugh for forming the group and demanded continued access to elected officials, but the handful of demonstrators did not offer outright support for the mayor.

“Out initiatives need to be moving forward, from homeless to homicide,” activist Christina Flowers said.

The GBC’s call for Pugh to resign arrived a day after Ex officio Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young ordered a review of an agreement with Associated Black Charities to run Baltimore’s $12 million Children and Youth Fund.

The charitable organization purchased $80,000 of Pugh’s children’s books. Associated Black Charities acknowledged soliciting $90,000 from outside donors for the purchase of the books, which it said were made between 2011 and 2016.

The Children and Youth Fund had been approved by voters in 2016. Young had been the prime mover behind the idea.

Young, at the behest of a task force he convened, recommended Associated Black Charities to administer the fund for two fiscal years. In January 2018 the Board of Estimates approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the charity paying it $1.2 million a year and permitting up to 10 percent of disbursements to cover the nonprofit’s administrative costs.

Young, the spending board’s chairman, and board member Comptroller Joan Pratt abstained from voting on approving the agreements with Associated Black Charities. Mayor Catherine Pugh and her two appointments to the five-member spending board voted in favor of it.

“Before we close I’d like to thank Mayor Pugh for partnering with me to grant final approval of my historic Children and Youth Fund,” Young said during the board meeting approving the agreement, according to meeting minutes.

Business reporter Tim Curtis contributed to this article.

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