Prosecutor: Pennsylvania mayor 'sold his office' to donors

By  | 

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- The mayor of Pennsylvania's third-largest city "sold his office" to campaign donors, trading city contracts for cash to fuel his political ambitions, a prosecutor told jurors Monday in the mayor's federal corruption trial.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski rigged a series of contracts to go to law firms and businesses that supported his campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate, retaliated against vendors that refused to play along or didn't give sufficiently and tried to hide his tracks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek said in his opening statement.

"If you wanted a contract in the city of Allentown under Mayor Pawlowski, you had to pay," he said. "The fix was in."

Pawlowski, 51, who began a fourth term this month, faces an indictment that includes dozens of accusations of fraud, bribery, attempted extortion and lying to the FBI. The most serious charges carry a maximum prison term of 20 years each.

The mayor's attorney, Jack McMahon, denied an illegal quid pro quo, or explicit connection between city work and campaign contributions. In his opening statement, he called the mayor a "moral person" and accused prosecutors of relying on "conniving, morally bankrupt" witnesses to build their case.

Pawlowski's political consultants, Mike Fleck and Sam Ruchlewicz, cooperated with the government and secretly recorded conversations with the mayor.

Several of the tapes were played Monday as prosecutors began presenting their case.

In the recordings, Pawlowski is heard complaining about a law firm that gave him a campaign contribution of only $100 after he awarded the firm millions of dollars in legal work.

"It's kind of like a slap in the face," he said.

Stevens & Lee had been seeking additional work. But Pawlowski said he wanted $5,000 from the firm "at the very least" before it could get back in his good graces.

Jonathan Saidel, a former Philadelphia city controller who met with the mayor while trying to drum up business for Stevens & Lee, told jurors he found Pawlowski's talk about city work and campaign cash to be "blatant, amateurish and sad." He said he didn't want to be involved in a "quid pro quo."

"I wanted to pick him up and throw him against the wall," Saidel, whose meeting with the mayor was captured on tape, told jurors.

The day's other witness, Stevens & Lee attorney Donald Wieand, described a 2015 phone call from Pawlowski in which the mayor told him he'd be hearing from Allentown's chief lawyer -- which Wieand took to mean the firm was going to get city work. Wieand said Pawlowski then asked for a $1,000 donation to his Senate campaign.

The lawyer said he agreed to send a check, then had second thoughts.

"What have I gotten myself into?" he told jurors, describing his mindset. "Now I'm in a pay-to-play situation, and I was uncomfortable. I didn't want any part of that."

He said he never sent the check.

Wzorek, the prosecutor, alleged that Pawlowski rigged millions of dollars in contracts for legal, engineering, technology and construction work.

Worried about getting caught, the mayor twice had his office swept for listening devices, told city workers to use their personal email accounts to conduct business and talked about getting disposable "burner" phones, he said.

A co-defendant, lawyer Scott Allinson, is charged with bribing Pawlowski for legal work for his firm. He has pleaded not guilty.

AP-WF-01-22-18 2308GMT



 
The comment sections of our web set are designed for thoughtful, intelligent conversation and debate. We want to hear from the viewers but we are not obligated to post comments we feel inappropriate or violate our guidelines. Here are some of the criteria you should follow when posting comments:

Comments cannot be profane or vulgar. Children and families visit this site. We will delete comments that use profanity or cross the lines of good taste.

We will delete all comments using hate speech. Slurs, stereotypes and violent talk aren’t welcome on our web site.

Comments should not attack other readers personally.

We will delete comments we deem offensive, in bad taste, or out of bounds. We are not obligated to post comments that are rude or insensitive.

We do not edit user-submitted comments.

As a host WEAU 13 News welcomes a wide spectrum of opinions. However, we have a responsibility to all our readers to try to keep our comment section fair and decent. For that reason WEAU 13 News reserves the right to not post or to remove any comment.
powered by Disqus