BALTIMORE — While some staff members recall the delivery and distribution of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Health Holly” books, Baltimore City Public Schools cannot provide confirming details about the books as the district does not keep most records dating back more than four years, according to a statement released by BCPS Tuesday.
The statement said most email is retained for three years, while some correspondence and reports are typically kept for four, meaning records dating before the 2015-16 school year are likely destroyed. Since the school system could not find documents pertaining to the sale and distribution of the books now pitted at the center of a controversy embroiling the Mayor, the University of Maryland Medical System, and still spiraling out to involved other companies that do business with the city and the healthcare provider, the district began contacting printing and shipping companies to confirm distribution of the “Healthy Holly” books.
The printer confirmed to the school district that the June 2011 shipment by Con-Way Freight of “Health Holly: Exercising Is Fun,” the book title mentioned in a January 2011 letter Pugh shared at a recent press conference, the district’s statement said, but the shipping company did not have documents confirming this delivery on their end. The alleged delivery was the result of the UMMS purchasing 20,000 copies as a donation to city schools.
“Nevertheless, staff members have a high degree of confidence that this shipment was received,” the statement said. “… A few staff members also recall distribution of the books between late 2011….and sometime in 2012. …. We have found no documentation regarding the means of distribution or the quantities distributed, and we have found no copies of this book in our warehouse or elsewhere.”
The district said they could confirm the receipt of the next two shipments of books purchased by UMMS from Pugh’s “Health Holly LLC” to be donated to city schools. “Healthy Holly: A Healthy Start for Herbie,” was received in March 2013, and “Healthy Holly: Fruits Come in Colors like the Rainbow,” was received in August of 2015. The printer’s bills of lading and signed delivery receipts from FedEx Freight confirmed these two deliveries.
However, school staff do not recall asking for the titles or reviewing them before or after receiving the shipments, nor was any correspondence with the UMMS produced pertaining to the book donation, the district’s statement said.
“Our previous inaccurate recollection of a single shipment of books appears to be the result of confusion among the different book titles, with some staff members recalling review of ‘Exercising Is Fun’ and others being aware that copies of ‘Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow’ were in our warehouse,” the statement said.
In August 2015, the shipment of 19,500 copies of “Healthy Holly: Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow,” was moved to an off-site warehouse used by the district, the statement said. Currently 8,700 copies remain there, but no additional copies were found at other locations. Between the time of the delivery and today, members of Pugh’s office have taken books from the warehouse on several locations, but the district does not have documents reflecting the quantities taken each time or when these instances happened.
The delivery of “Healthy Holly: A Healthy Start for Herbie,” was only confirmed by the signed FedEx receipt, the district said. The school system is still looking into the details of that shipment, but currently they cannot locate copies of the book in the warehouse or elsewhere, and no records or staff recollections of distribution of the book have surfaced.
“We also have no record or recollection of any additional titles in the Healthy Holly series or of any contact from the University of Maryland Medical System or Mayor Pugh regarding a potential fourth shipment,” the district’s statement said. “Some staff members have reported having a few copies of the ‘Healthy Holly’ books in schools or have said they recall books being distributed at school events.”
The district said some of these books were the result of direct donation by Pugh her self, such as when she distributed copies at a ribbon-cutting event for new school buildings.
“In total,” the district said, “these reports appear to account for no more than 500 books.”
In the weeks since the controversy came to light, Pugh has at first defended the sale, then resigned her seat on the UMMS board, then returned the money, then apologized. As voices grew for a fuller investigation of the matter, the UMMS contracted an outside firm to review its corporate policies, and Governor Larry Hogan has asked the Office of the State Prosecutor to investigate the matter. Citing a recent diagnosis of pneumonia, Pugh took a leave of absence as mayor, promoting Baltimore City Council President Jack Young to servce as Ex Officio Mayor. Some lawmakers and residents question weather Pugh should return.