James T. “Jim” Smith Jr., who was cited for an illegal loan to Catherine Pugh’s cash-strapped 2016 campaign, has resigned from a cabinet post she created for him after she went on to win and become Baltimore’s mayor.
“He came by on Friday afternoon and met with Jack and gave him his resignation,” said Lester Davis, spokesman for City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
Young has been serving as ex officio mayor since Monday after Pugh’s announcement that she was taking a leave of absence amid a widening scandal over the money she accepted for her self-published Healthy Holly children’s books.
Smith is on the board of directors of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), whose $500,000 in payments for Pugh’s books while she sat on the board are at the center of the scandal.
Asked if his departure was triggered by Pugh’s legal troubles – the Maryland State Prosecutor began a criminal investigation into the book payments last week – Davis said he had no indication that was the case.
“I think he’s had a distinguished career,” Davis said. “This is just an opportunity for him to return to private life.”
Asked if Chief of Operations Peter Hammen or any other top official has expressed plans to leave, Davis said no.
Smith, whose title was chief of strategic alliances, could not be reached for comment. Davis could not say when Smith’s resignation, first reported by the Daily Record, will take effect.
A former judge, state transportation secretary and two-term Baltimore County executive, Smith was named to the cabinet job shortly after Pugh took office in December 2016.
The responsibilities of his job were always unclear, reportedly focusing on transportation, economic development and emergency management.
Smith kept an exceedingly low profile at City Hall, rarely attending public events with the mayor.
Last year, he collected $180,421.25 in salary, making him one of the best paid employees in Baltimore government.
Sources could not confirm tonight the reason for Smith’s departure.
His loan to Pugh, first reported by The Brew, came not from his own pocket, but from a political committee that he controlled called the Baltimore County Victory Slate.
The $100,000 infusion – coming six days before the Democratic mayoral primary in April 2016 – helped rescue Pugh’s campaign, arguably clinching her slim margin of victory over former mayor Sheila Dixon.
The State Prosecutor later declared the loan was “unlawful” because Pugh was not among the county candidates the slate was set up to sponsor.
The Victory Slate was fined $3,000 for its violation of campaign laws.
Smith raised eyebrows last year when, as The Brew reported, he was actively campaigning for Vicki Almond in the Baltimore County executive’s race.
Smith’s Victory Slate funded mailers attacking one of Almond’s primary opponents, Jim Brochin, who was running a campaign condemning pay-for-play politics in the county.