Pennsylvania Mayors Indicted for Corruption


Ed Pawlowski, mayor of Allentown, listened to chants and cheers from the crowd when he stood before the media after federal prosecutors charged him with corruption. He proclaimed his innocence and said that he had never accepted any money other than his salary as mayor. He also insisted that all of his campaign contributions were entirely and that he had never offered anything in exchange.

Federal prosecutors charged Pawloski and Reading mayor, Vaughn Spencer, with multiple counts of bribery and fraud for awarding very profitable city contracts to selected individuals and businesses in exchange for campaign contributions, cash and gifts. Prosecutors claim that Spencer and Pawlowski had effectively put for-sale signs in front of the city halls in Allentown and Reading and let it be known that their offices and services were available to the highest bidder.

Prosecutors claim that during the period from 2012 to 2015 Pawlowski directed city contracts for legal work and upgrades to streetlights to donors who gave him money. Pawlowski then attempted to hide his tracks by deleting all emails between the donors and himself. He also had his office swept periodically for any listening devices that he suspected may have been installed by law enforcement. Pawlowski rejects all claims of misconduct and said he has no intention of resigning while fighting these charges even though the Allentown City Council has produced a vote of no confidence and asked for him to resign.

In an effort to keep substantial campaign funds flowing, Spencer, Reading’s mayor since 2012, let it be known that he would use the influence of his office to punish anyone who didn’t make acceptable cash contributions. On one occasion, Spencer awarded a $227,000 contract to an engineering firm after an agent for the company offered four tickets to a Phillies game along with a cash contribution of $1,500.

The federal government began investigating Spencer and Pawlowski in 2015 when FBI agents raided both of their homes and city hall offices. The investigation, which began in 2013, had already led to charges against a number of contractors and lower-ranking city employees.

One of the people charged was Mike Fleck, a political consultant and long-time friend of Pawlowski. The charges led to Fleck pleading guilty to tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion.

Pawlowski attempted to distance himself from Fleck when he said he regretted having put his trust in a manipulative thief and habitual liar. He went on to place his faith in the judicial system to get to the truth so everyone would find out that his character is what everyone expects.