Allentown mayor, accused of selling favors, says he’s not guilty
PHILADELPHIA — The mayor of Pennsylvania’s third-largest city pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal corruption charges that officials likened to putting a for-sale sign on his office while promising political favors to deep-pocketed donors.
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski denied accusations that he accepted more than $150,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for city business at his first appearance in federal court in Philadelphia after being charged with multiple counts of bribery and fraud.
The three-term Democrat will remain free but cannot travel outside the area without official consent. Pawlowski’s lawyer said his client is ready to fight the charges and will continue to seek a fourth term in office. A trial date has not yet been set.
Prosecutors allege Pawlowski attempted to steer lucrative city contracts for jobs such as streetlight upgrades, a cybersecurity deal and various other legal work to donors who showered him with gifts and cash between 2012 and 2015.
He allegedly tried to hide his actions by deleting emails between himself and his donors. He also had his office swept for listening devices he believed were installed by law enforcement, according to the indictment.
Pawlowski once complained to a representative of a law firm that had received nearly $2 million in legal fees from Allentown that the firm hadn’t given him enough money and then personally solicited more cash from one of the attorneys, according to the indictment.
In another instance, prosecutors said he accepted a dinner at an upscale steakhouse, tickets to a 2014 Philadelphia Eagles playoff game and campaign contributions from a company bidding on a city contract.
Pawlowski, who took office in 2006, has said he won’t comment on the charges beyond a statement he read at a press conference Wednesday and posted online.
“I’m disappointed about the filing of these allegations against me. But I want to make it clear to everyone, I have done nothing wrong,” he said in the statement.
The former mayor of Reading also was indicted this week, accused of shaking down businesses for campaign contributions in return for city work. Vaughn Spencer is due in court Tuesday. He plans to fight the charges, his lawyer said.
The federal investigation of the two city governments began in 2013 and previously led to charges against a slew of lower-ranking city officials and contractors. It became public in 2015 when FBI agents raided both city halls as well as the homes of Pawlowski and Spencer.