U.S. mayor charged in corruption case

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The mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, has been charged in a pay-for-play corruption case, according to documents released Wednesday.

In a whopping 55-count indictment, Democratic Mayor Edwin Pawlowski was among three people suspected of bribery, extortion, wire fraud, and other charges in a scheme whereby campaign donors were rewarded with generous city contracts.

Pawlowski, along with co-defendants Scott Allison, an attorney from Allentown, and James Hickey, a business consultant, was accused of participating in the conspiracy from 2012 to 2015, in which contracts were steered toward firms whose executives had contributed to his PAC.

Triggering flashbacks of presidential politics, the indictment details that Pawlowski advised “his campaign operatives to delete their emails concerning communications with vendors.” He was paranoid to the point that he had his office “‘swept’ to try to find any listening devices that he believed law enforcement may have installed to record incriminating conversations.”

Taken together, the incidents the indictment cites amount to a textbook pay-for-play corruption case, which is troubling for Allentown, Pennsylvania’s third largest city.

“Pawlowski … bypassed the contracting procedures in place in the city of Allentown and violated his duty of honest services… to take official action favorable to those vendors who had provided, or were expected to provide, campaign contributions to defendant Pawlowski,” the indictment stated.

The 60-page indictment was unveiled to the press just hours before the state attorney general’s office in Philadelphia was set to publicly address the case in a 1:30 p.m. news conference.

Pawlowski has been feeling the heat for a while, as court papers from March show he was implicated in a pay-for-play investigation at that time that had a narrower scope.

Allentown’s former managing director, Francis Dougherty, pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges. The indictment is part of a broader federal investigation that has seen seven convictions already.

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