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FBI agents search at Baltimore Mayor Pugh's Ashburton homes, attorney's office, and City Hall office

Law firm, UMMS subpoenaed by federal authorities
Posted at 7:32 AM, Apr 25, 2019

FBI agents from the Baltimore Field Office conducted court authorized searches at Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's homes as well as her offices in City Hall.

Agents in FBI windbreakers could be seen going in and out of Pugh's houses in the city's Ashburton neighborhood Thursday morning, and the FBI Baltimore Field Office confirmed by spokesperson Dave Fitz, saying the IRS Criminal Investigation team is helping assist with search. The properties are located in the 3400 block of Ellamont Road and the 3600 block of Dennlyn Road.

READ MORE: See all of WMAR-2 News' coverage of the "Healthy Holly" scandal

FBI agents were also seen at City Hall, where Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis confirmed the agency had searched the Mayor's suite of offices on the building's second floor. Davis said the FBI collected "things related to an office," but would not provide further clarity on the items seized.

FBI agents searched Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s City Hall office.

Pugh has not occupied those offices in City Hall since she announced she was taking a leave of absence to deal with a lingering case of pneumonia on April 1. The home being searched recently came under scrutiny for a code violation.

The Maryland Center for Adult Training at 4910 Park Heights Avenue also was visited by the FBI. Three of Pugh's aides who were fired by Ex Officio Mayor Jack Young on Wednesday serve as board members for MCAT. Poetri Deal served as vice-chairperson, and Afra Vance-White was the secretary. Gary Brown Jr. was the program's director. His house was searched by FBI agents Thursday.

Student who showed up Thursday were turned away as a sign on the building announced "MCAT Close Today."

"It's just hurtful and painful to see that our school is going through this," said nursing student Najwa Shivers, who was frustrated to discover the closing. "I've been at a school that's been shut down due to funds, so I'm trying to figure it out – I hope it doesn't have anything to do with that."

FBI personnel were also seen conducting similar operations at the office of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White LLC, the law firm that represents Pugh, in the 200 block of N. Charles Street. Steven Silverman, the firm's managing partner, released a statement Thursday afternoon, clarifying that the office was not "raided," or searched, and that instead FBI agents came to collect "original financial records belonging to Mayor Pugh," which the firm had since it was representing her "in the Healthy Holly Matter."

"The agents were directed to the sequestered area with the Mayor’s documents and the firm complied with the subpoena," Silverman's statement read. " ... The agents were polite and courteous, and the process was conducted in an expeditious and professional matter."

The documents had been subpoenaed, and were separate from information or documents associated with the firm's other clients, Silverman said. Materials that would be considered protected by attorney-client privilege were not collected. He confirmed the firm will continue to "vigorously defend the Mayor."

A spokesperson for the University of Maryland Medical System said the organization had also received a "witness subpoena" from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland. UMMS is currently conducting it's own internal review of processes involving it's board, where the controversy first emerged as Pugh won contracts from the medical system to provide thousands of copies of her book in return for roughly $500,000 in compensation.

"We are fully cooperating with the investigative process," said Michael Schwartzberg, the Media Relations Director for UMMS.

On Wednesday, Acting Mayor Young announced the firing of three Pugh staff members who had previously been put on paid leave. Thursday, Young said he had no prior knowledge the FBI would be conducting these searches. He called the proceedings "embarrassing" for Baltimore. When asked if he thought Pugh should step aside, Young abstained, saying the decision is hers to make, and that he should not comment on it.

The Office of the State Prosecutor in Maryland has opened an investigation into Pugh's dealings with the sales of her "Healthy Holly" children's book, but there was no word on a concurrent federal investigation.

Pugh has vowed to return to her position as Mayor when she is well, but a growing chorus of city and state lawmakers have called on her to resign, as has the Greater Baltimore Committee, and an online petition. Young has not said whether Pugh should resign, but he has acknowledged it may be better for the city for her to step aside.

Currently there is no contingency in the Baltimore City Charter to impeach or remove a sitting mayor who has not been convicted of a crime, nor are there stipulations about how long of a leave she can take. The Baltimore City Council intends to introduce an amendment at an upcoming meeting that would create a path to remove a mayor in some circumstances.

This is a developing story and will be updated.