Ed Pawlowski, the longtime mayor of Allentown, resigned Friday from office following his conviction earlier this month on dozens of federal corruption charges.
He officially stepped down at 5 p.m., ceding to City Council President Roger MacLean. His resignation was required. Under Allentown's city charter, an elected official found guilty of a 2nd degree misdemeanor or felony must relinquish his or her office.
Prosecutors successfully argued Pawlowski strong-armed city vendors for campaign cash in a wide-ranging scheme meant to fuel his political ambitions for statewide office.
A federal jury convicted him on 47 of 52 charges, including conspiracy, bribery, fraud, attempted extortion and lying to the FBI on March 1. Sentencing has not been scheduled.
Federal prosecutors had urged Pawlowski to resign immediately, calling him unfit to serve even before a jury determined he had sold his office to campaign donors.
"He couldn't serve the people before, he can't serve the people after he's been convicted, and a jury has spoken and he is facing many, many years in jail," U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said at a news conference in Philadelphia earlier this month. "He needs to get his affairs in order and address his criminal situation and leave the city in the hands of somebody who's not corrupted."
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he wanted Pawlowski gone too.
"He has disgraced his office and cheated the people of Allentown," said Wolf's spokesman, J.J. Abbott.
The Chicago native led his adopted city for 12 years and was re-elected to a fourth term while under indictment.
The conviction was a "devastating blow" to Pawlowski, who respected the jury's verdict but continues to maintain his innocence, his attorney Jack McMahon said.
"He totally believes he never did anything wrong," the Philadelphia-based attorney said. "This is a guy that I've come to know pretty well, and he's a pretty good guy. I've been around a lot of crooks in my life and this is not one that I feel that way about."
Pawlowski was Allentown's economic development chief before taking office as mayor in January 2006. The city's moribund downtown was transformed on his watch, with valuable state tax incentives producing a new hockey arena, gleaming office buildings and upscale apartments.
He kept up appearances throughout the 5 1/2-week trial, responding to emails, texts and phone calls about official city business, signing documents and running a weekly meeting. Pawlowski showed up at City Hall — a block from the federal courthouse where he stood trial — a few times a week.
Now Allentown, Pennsylvania's third-largest city that is home to 120,000 citizens, will need a new leader barely two months after Pawlowski began a new term.
Under the city charter, the City Council president will serve as mayor until council appoints an interim mayor, who will serve until the November 2019 municipal election.
Council President Roger MacLean, Allentown's former police chief, said he's ready to take the helm and help the city "put this in the past" once Pawlowski steps down.
"Has he done some good for the city? Sure, I wouldn't take that away from him," MacLean said of Pawlowski. "Evidently in this case, ambition might have clouded things and that's the way the jury saw it. They understood what was going on."