Catherine Pugh is returning to her journalism roots.

The former mayor left City Hall in 2019 amid a corruption scandal and ultimately pleaded guilty to four charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. She returned to Baltimore earlier this year after serving under two years in prison.

Since then, the 72-year-old has quietly re-entered the local media world, which she left in 1999 after winning a City Council seat. Ahead of next week’s election, she’s published several articles for the AFRO, a weekly paper focused on Black community news, including a commentary on upcoming city ballot measures.

On Question K, the Sinclair executive-funded measure that would limit elected officials to two terms in office, Pugh wrote that she could easily make arguments for and against the proposal.

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“I believe that even if term limits were implemented a mayor who has served the city well should be allowed to do what Mayor Bloomberg did in New York City when seeking a third term and that is get a given number of signatures to get on the ballot,” she wrote. “He won and would have probably won again if he sought a fourth term. In fact, I believe that every city elected official should have the same benefit.”

City Hall’s three citywide officials — Mayor Brandon Scott, City Council President Nick Mosby and Comptroller Bill Henry — are all serving their first term, as are several council members. Critics of Question K are quick to point out that forcing many elected officials out of office in the same cycle could lead to political instability due to an influx of inexperienced replacements. Pugh seems to align herself with this argument.

“Staggering the elections so that we don’t lose institutional knowledge all at the same time should have been considered in designing this Charter Amendment,” she wrote.

She also offered comments on Question I, which would change the membership of the advisory board that oversees the Baltimore City inspector general, the independent watchdog that investigates fraud, waste and abuse in City Hall. The panel currently consists of multiple City Hall elected officials and their designees, who are subject to investigation by the inspector general.

“I would hope that the appointment of such an advisory board would only be advisory so as not to tie the hands of the Inspector General and to allow he or she to do their job,” she wrote. “Food for thought. The choice is yours.”

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Her defense’s argument at her 2020 sentencing hearing included a recap of her time in journalism.

According to her attorneys, Pugh became a co-anchor at Morgan State University’s WEAA radio station in 1977, a role in which she worked with then-news director Kweisi Mfume.

“Ms. Pugh, through her own initiative, also made regular appearances on Baltimore Channel 45, delivering crime prevention tips to the local Baltimore community,” her attorneys wrote. Channel 45 is WBFF, known as Fox45.

In 1979, Pugh also founded the now-shuttered weekly newspaper African American News & World Report, where she acted in different roles — editor, publisher and photographer — until 1984. She funded its operations through support from companies including the Baltimore Orioles and Kraft Foods, according to her attorneys. She traveled the country to report on national events for the publication, including a 1979 Ku Klux Klan rally in North Carolina and the Miami race riots, according to her attorneys.

She also reported for WMAR from 1980 to 1982, and published news supplements in The Baltimore Sun about positive news in the city’s Black communities, the first of which was published in 1985, according to her attorneys.

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emily.sullivan@thebaltimorebanner.com

A push for Black voters to help elect Black governors

A national group is pushing to get Black voters in Maryland to cast their ballots in the general election.

The Black Economic Alliance, a nonpartisan group of business leaders, is airing ads in Maryland featuring former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick imploring people to vote.

Patrick is one of just two Black men ever elected governor in the nation; should Democrat Wes Moore win Maryland’s gubernatorial election, he would be the third, although he is not mentioned in the ad. Moore is one of at least nine Black candidates running for governor this year.

“It’s great to be a first,” Patrick says in the ad, as images of the first elected Black governor, Virginia’s L. Douglas Wilder, flash on the screen. “But being first doesn’t mean a thing unless there’s a second, and a third, and many more to follow.”

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Later he says: “As one of only two Black governors elected in American history, I can tell you: Better leadership is possible only if you show up and vote. Your vote can lift your climb and that of others.”

The Black Economic Alliance says it’s spending “six figures” on the ads, which are running in four states where Black Democrats are running for governor against white Republicans: Maryland (Moore), Georgia (Stacey Abrams), Arkansas (Chris Jones) and Iowa (Deidre DeJear). In Maryland, the ad is airing on cable systems in Baltimore County at a cost of about $70,000.

“Black voters need representatives who will actually represent us,” Patrick said in a statement. “That’s why it’s on each of us to vote and to get everyone around us to do the same.”

pamela.wood@thebaltimorebanner.com

City Union of Baltimore files pay grievance

City Union of Baltimore Local 800 members say raises, bonuses and retroactive payments approved in their new labor contract — as well as routine, biweekly paychecks — have not reached their bank accounts. The president of the union has filed a class-action grievance in an attempt to accelerate the disbursement of back payments and is waiting for a response from the labor commissioner’s office.

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Union president Antoinette Ryan-Johnson, who represents as many as 3,000 city workers in collective bargaining, said employees across agencies are missing pay. The retroactive payments cover two payment periods: July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 and July 1, 2022 to present, she said.

A memorandum of understanding, greenlighted by the Board of Estimates in September, confirms that the union and the labor commissioner have concluded negotiating.

”My members work hard and provide a service to the city and surrounding jurisdictions, they do an awesome job, and they are entitled to be compensated correctly and immediately, per our MOU [memorandum of understanding], what is due to them,” Ryan-Johnson said. “And yet, they still come to work and do their jobs. I want city management to understand this is not acceptable.”

Ryan-Johnson attributed the problem to a glitch involving Workday, the city’s new payment platform ushered in by City Administrator Chris Shorter. The system includes finance, budget, procurement and human resources functions, but already has racked up complaints and has caused emergencies in city agencies.

”People have bills to pay and obligations to meet,” Ryan-Johnson said, adding that rising prices at the pump, at the grocery store and skyrocketing rent costs are squeezing her members ahead of the holidays. “This did not just start in September. Somebody needs to look at their system. Without a shadow of a doubt there were issues with the last system, but not like this.”

Monica Lewis, a spokeswoman for Mayor Brandon Scott, said members of the union and the mayor will meet to discuss several concerns. “Mayor Scott ... values the work of all City employees, and their vital contributions to a thriving Baltimore,” Lewis said in an email.

Baltimore Banner reporter Adam Willis contributed reporting.

hallie.miller@thebaltimorebanner.com