Allentown Mayor Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges

(CN) – Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski pleaded not guilty Thursday to 54 counts of corruption related to what federal prosecutors claim was a brazen pay-to-play scheme trading lucrative city contracts for campaign contributions and other gifts.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynne Sitarski ordered Pawlowski to post a $50,000 own recognizance bond, which means he doesn’t have to put up any money unless he violates the condition of his release pending trial.

Among those conditions is that he not travel outside the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Allentown attorney Scott Allinson, who is charged with fraud and bribery offenses in the same indictment as Pawlowski, and Rebecca Acosta, a former Reading school board member charged in a separate but related case against former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer, also entered not guilty pleas and were granted pre-trial release.

“Pawlowski and Spencer essentially put a for-sale sign up in front of city hall in Reading and in Allentown to sell their office and their services to the highest bidder,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen.

Prosecutors allege Pawlowski attempted to steer contracts for jobs such as streetlight upgrades, a cyber security deal and other legal work toward those who gave him money from 2012 to 2015.

In total, he accepted more than $150,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for the use of his office, prosecutors said.

He also 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  during a press conference shortly after his arrest on Wednesday that he is innocent and has no intention to resign.

“I’m disappointed about the filing of these allegations against me.” he said, “But I want to make it clear to everyone, I have done nothing wrong.”

Prosecutors claim Spencer, who was elected Reading’s mayor in 2012, reportedly told donors he would use the power of his office to punish those who didn’t provide satisfactory cash contributions to his re-election campaign.

In one instance, prosecutors said, Spencer agreed to award a contract worth $227,000 to an engineering firm after a representative for the company told him he would receive a $1,500 contribution and four tickets to a Philadelphia Phillies game.

The federal investigation of the two city governments began in 2013 and previously led to charges against a number 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.

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