BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland leaders are reacting to former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's sentencing with disappointment toward her actions but hope for the future of the city.
Pugh emerged from the federal courthouse Thursday after her sentencing in a years-long scheme in which she sold her self-published children's books to nonprofits and foundations to promote her political career and campaign for mayor.
Former colleagues viewed the outcome of the involving Pugh, who served in the House of Delegates and state senate prior to being elected mayor, with regret.
"When talking to residents of the city, they are not encouraged by seeing elected officials, people that they put the public trust in, to be associated with any allegations of wrongdoing," said Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore).
Democratic Sen. Mary Washington, who is running for mayor, said the scandal has been a trying time for the city and "contaminated" residents' trust in government.
"Frankly we can close the door and end this chapter that has just been so terribly sad but also so terribly disappointing," Washington said.
Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) echoed Washington's remarks, calling the last year a trying time for Baltimore.
"My biggest concern is the lack of public trust, the loss of public trust, the tendency for people to become less engaged because they don't trust the elected officials, and so it's our responsibility, everybody in elected office, to work as diligently as we can to rebuild that trust that's been lost," she said.
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott, another mayoral candidate, said that Pugh's sentencing was a reminder for elected officials that they have a job to serve people -- period.
"I take my charge as a public servant seriously and I always have. I will continue fighting for you because you deserve leadership that you can trust, that you know is committed to moving this city in a better direction, that's always ethical regardless of who is watching," Scott said.
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Scott added that he believes in his time as council president, they have addressed ethics issues, closed loopholes and introduced measures to give the mayor's office more checks and balances he believes are overdue.
"We cannot and will not be defined by the failure of the unethical leadership of the past. This an opportunity for us to break away from that. That's what we're focused on in the council, closing loopholes, strengthening ethics laws, trying to build a better city government that's more transparent and accountable to citizens of Baltimore," Scott said.
Baltimore City Councilman Bill Henry echoed Scott's sentiments, saying Pugh's sentencing day is a sad day for Baltimore City.
"The corruption uncovered over the past year has resulted in a citizenry that is angry, frustrated, and disappointed with local government. We need to move forward and focus on getting our city back on track," he said in part.
He noted the city council is working on reforms to "challenge the status quo" of the mayoral structure, of which he said "created a culture where dishonesty thrived,"
"We can't forget -- nor should we -- the shame of being let down by those who were custodians of public trust. We also can't let it keep us from working harder and fighting harder to make Baltimore better," Henry added.
WATCH: Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke Reacts To Catherine Pugh's Sentence
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said the former mayor worked hard during her time as mayor, but that she believes this is a fair sentence.
"I just have to remind people of all the good work that Catherine Pugh did as a citizen, and as an elected official. But this was a long-drawn-out project with these books. It wasn't something was an instantaneous mistake," she said.
Baltimore mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah also released a statement, calling Pugh's corruption just the latest episode in the city's troubled history:
"Our city has been through a lot. The corruption of Catherine Pugh has been the latest episode in our city's troubled history. In this case, justice has been done. The prison sentence should send a signal to voters and our leaders that city corruption will not be tolerated anymore and that we can do better.
"I pray that the former mayor learns from this and comes out stronger and that our city learns from this lesson and comes out stronger too. So long as we do, we as a city can move past the corruption of yesterday and write a new chapter we can all be proud of."
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who herself resigned amid scandal, said she will pray for her successor:
"My faith and past personal experiences have taught me not to condemn anyone during their darkest and most difficult times, as I have taught my own children that none of us are the sum total of the worst act we have ever experienced or committed; so I personally will continue to pray for Catherine, and our city, as we struggle to move beyond what transpired last year - and the acts that led up to this unfortunate circumstance."
WJZ reporters Paul Gessler, Ava-joye Burnett, Rachel Menitoff and Pat Warren contributed to this story.
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