Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was found guilty Thursday of 47 federal crimes in a corruption trial in which federal prosecutors accused him of selling his office to campaign donors.
The fourth-term mayor must forfeit his office under the Allentown city charter. City Council President Roger MacLean is now mayor until Council appoints an interim mayor to serve until the next municipal election in November 2019.
In addition to the guilty verdicts, the jury found Pawlowski innocent of seven of the 54 charges of fraud, bribery, attempted extortion and lying to the FBI. At the conclusion, the mayor's wife reportedly stumbled out of the courtroom and needed medical attention.
"Thinking only of himself, he deprived Allentown residents of their right to receive honest and faithful services from their municipal government," U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said in a statement. "The mayor then tried to cover up his crimes by destroying evidence, lying to the FBI agents who were investigating him, and lying to the federal jurors who heard his case."
Prosecutors had called him the mastermind of a pay-to-play scheme that infested Pennsylvania’s third-largest city. Lappen pointed out that in addition to Pawlowski, 10 others pleaded guilty for their involvement in the widespread scheme.
"We hope that those in public office receive the clear message that justice system will not tolerate these abuses of the public trust," Lappen said.
Shortly after Pawlowski's counts were read, his co-defendant, Allentown lawyer Scott Allinson, was found guilty. He had been charged with conspiracy and bribery.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Pawlowski traded city contracts for campaign cash that funded his unsuccessful runs for governor and U.S. Senate.
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."
The most serious charges carry a maximum prison term of 20 years each.
Pawlowski’s political consultants, Mike Fleck and Sam Ruchlewicz, cooperated with the government and secretly recorded conversations with the mayor.
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.