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Baltimore Mayor Pugh To Take Leave Of Absence Amid 'Healthy Holly' Book Controversy, Cites 'Health Issues'

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh will take a leave of absence in the midst of the "Healthy Holly" book controversy over hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments for the children's books, WJZ has confirmed.

The mayor will take a leave of absence effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

TIMELINE: Mayor Pugh, Healthy Holly, And Her Leave Of Absence

Mayor Pugh released a statement Monday afternoon saying she was taking a leave of absence to "recover and focus on her health,"

"Mayor Catherine Pugh has been battling pneumonia for the past few weeks. She has been advised by her her physicians that she needs to take time to recover and focus on her health. At this time, with the Mayor's health deteriorating, she feels as though she is unable to fulfill her obligations as Mayor of Baltimore City. To that end, Mayor Pugh will be taking an indefinite leave of absence to recuperate from this serious illness."

Article IV, Section 2 of the Baltimore City Charter states that "{[i]n case of, and during, sickness, temporary disqualification or necessary absence of the Mayor, the President of the City Council shall be ex officio Mayor of the City."

Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young will temporarily take over as mayor.

"I am utterly heartbroken by the developments that have unfolded over the past several weeks. I pray that Mayor Pugh continues to recover from her illness," He said partially in a statement. "She has been advised by her physicians that she needs to take time to recover and focus on her health,"

Young said he plans to spend his first day as "ex officio Mayor" attending internal meetings and public events.

"Lastly, I understand how traumatizing this has all been for the people of Baltimore. I take my responsibilities seriously and look forward to serving as a stabilizing force." He said in an end to his statement.

This comes just hours after it was revealed that Kaiser Permanente had paid $114,000 to Mayor Pugh for her Healthy Holly books.

Kaiser Permanante Says It Paid Mayor Pugh $114K For 'Healthy Holly' Books

"We purchased Healthy Holly books because we believe residents would be inspired by a book about health and wellness authored by a member of the Baltimore community," Kaiser Permanente said partially in a statement Monday.

Hours later, Gov. Hogan called for an investigation into the controversy, asking the state prosecutor to launch a formal investigation into Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's sales of children's books to the University of Maryland Medical Center while she was a board member.

Gov. Hogan Wants Investigation Of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's Book Deal; Calls For Pugh's Resignation Continue

In a letter to the state prosecutor, Hogan said, "These are deeply disturbing allegations. I am particularly concerned about the UMMS sale because it has significant continuing ties with the State and receives very substantial public funding."

Read a copy of the full letter here: Hogan Letter To State Prosecutor

City leaders are calling for not just her leave of absence, but also a resignation.

"I'm not in a position to judge one way or the other whether this was premeditated, but what I will say is that it raises some really serious ethics questions to me and that Baltimore deserves better from its public leaders," said Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen

Cohen posted a statement on Facebook wishing Mayor Pugh a speedy recovery but also calling for her resignation.

"Mayor Pugh has lost the moral mandate to govern and the public's trust. Baltimore deserves better," Cohen said.

Councilman Brandon Scott stopped short of calling for her resignation but endorsed the governor's call for an investigation into the first business arrangement that started this controversy- the mayor's half a million dollar book deal with UMMS- while she was a member of the board.

"Extremely disappointing and embarrassing for the city of Baltimore. And so think I'm light of this big cloud that is over not just her but the city, right now it undoubtedly impacts her ability to focus on the day to day business of the city," Scott said.

In Annapolis, six senators who represent Baltimore signed a letter saying they share int eh hurt and disappointment Baltimoreans are feeling.

"It's embarrassing for the city. Where do we go from here? Is the next mayor going to do the same thing? Who do we trust? We can't trust anyone at this point," One anonymous City employee said.

Meanwhile, Baltimore City Council President Jack Young will serve as acting mayor.

Rep. Elijah Cummings wished Jack Young luck as Acting Mayor and called for the city to support him.

"I am pleased that this matter is being addressed by the appropriate authorities and I wish Mayor Pugh a speedy recovery as she continues to recuperate.

"I want everyone to remain focused on the fact that there are thousands of good people doing important work every single day to make Baltimore a better place to live and work. There is no doubt we are experiencing some difficult times now, but we cannot lose hope or confidence in our ability to be the architects and builders of the kind of city, nation and world we dream of for ourselves and those yet unborn.

"I ask that you join me in giving Council President Young our full support and thank him for stepping into the role of Acting Mayor. It is not a role he sought, but I am confident he will do a fine job."

City Councilman Ryan Dorsey said he looks forward to Mayor Young's leadership.

"He was indispensable in passing my reforms to the Inspector General's Office and Complete Streets, and he has incredibly capable staff who will serve him well in ensuring the stability of our government," He said in a tweet.

Citizens are also concerned and disappointed.

"As the city, we gave her a chance, I'm very disappointed," A resident said.

But others are reserving judgment after the mayor said she's taking a leave of absence to focus on her health.

"I'm not in her position but not could be an honest mistake or could be a lot of things, but it's probably good that she recharges herself and hopefully be a better mayor for the community," said Steven Smith, Baltimore resident.

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