Should The Smell Test Or Legal Test Define Mayor Pugh’s Actions?


Pugh! Would that be the Mayor of Baltimore City or the stench of corruption? Could these be one and the same? While the charges and condemnations are coming fast and furiously against Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, it must be kept in mind that the mayor has not been charged with a crime. Even if the mayor were to be indicted, she would still be presumed innocent under the law until proven guilty.

Despite damning allegations and quick-draw demands for her resignation Mayor Pugh, so far, is only guilty of having pneumonia. Having won office with 57 percent of the popular vote— short of a formal conviction— it is the voters who will sit in judgment regarding the mayor’s fate. Appearances alone must not be the criteria to force the mayor from office.

Nearly ten years ago, former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, was arguably charged with a much more egregious crime relating to outright personal theft of gift cards intended to brighten Christmas for Baltimore’s poorest children.

The drumbeat for Dixon’s resignation by her former city council colleagues did not rise to the decibel level we are hearing from the current City Council who voted unanimously for Mayor Pugh to resign— some of whom supported the mayor’s bid for City Hall.

The same is true for Catherine Pugh’s former colleagues at the State Capital in Annapolis. The entire Baltimore City delegation has also demanded the mayor’s resignation. Again, some of whom championed her race for Baltimore Mayor.

Do these politicians know something that Baltimore voters don’t? Did they know it when they endorsed the mayor’s candidacy? Why did they turn on the mayor based on allegations in lieu of evidence and on speculation in lieu of legal proceedings? Are these knee-jerk reactions or more calculated?

The bandwagon of mayor Pugh’s detractors will surely breakdown at the rate finger pointers on piling on. The smell test notwithstanding, public officials who purport to uphold the rule of law, should not be in a rush to judgment by vilifying the mayor in the media. If Mayor Pugh is guilty of anything, the ‘truth’ should be ascertained in a court of law, not in the court of public opinion.

Former Baltimore Mayor Dixon, who made the rounds last week, publicly weighing in on Mayor Pugh’s situation, was only made to resign as a result of her criminal conviction, staying on as mayor for over a year after she was indicted— not just accused— of heinous criminal acts against the most in-need and vulnerable of her constituents.

This assessment is neither an apology nor an attempt to make light of Mayor Pugh’s conduct, simply to say that until all the facts are in, the jury should be out as to any criminal culpability or ethical lapse associated with Ms. Pugh’s behavior. While what has been exposed does not encourage confidence, it should also not substitute for a comprehensive finding of fact.

The nearly 130,000 Baltimore voters who swept Mayor Pugh into office in 2016 must be the cooler heads that prevail in this controversy. An able politician who honorably served Baltimore City for 20 years in the City Council and State Assembly must be given the benefit of the doubt and the benefit of an impartial investigation, like every other citizen. Extremely serious allegations of criminality and possible espionage against President Donald Trump’s, floated for nearly three years since he announced his candidacy, has not removed him from office.

Mayor Catherine Pugh is deserving of due process and the presumption of innocence until a preponderance of all the evidence indicates otherwise.