PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – The longtime mayor of Allentown, the third largest city in Pennsylvania, has been charged with corruption in a pay-for-play scheme, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Wednesday.
Edwin Pawlowski, a Democrat who is running for re-election to a fourth term, was among three people accused of bribery, extortion, wire fraud and other charges in a 55-count indictment. He is the latest official ensnared in a broad federal probe that has seen seven convictions already.
Pawlowski, who took office as mayor in 2006 and was twice re-elected, also campaigned unsuccessfully for Pennsylvania governor in 2014 and U.S. Senate in 2015.
He is accused with co-defendants Scott Allison, an attorney from Allentown, and James Hickey, a business consultant, in a conspiracy that ran from 2012 to 2015 in which political campaign donors were rewarded with lucrative city contracts.
Pawlowski maintained secrecy by deleting his own emails and advising “his campaign operatives to delete their emails concerning communications with vendors,” the indictment said.
He also had his office “‘swept’ to try to find any listening devices that he believed law enforcement may have installed to record incriminating conversations,” the indictment said.
“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 said.
The 60-page indictment was unsealed on Wednesday just hours before the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia was scheduled to discuss the charges at a 1.30 p.m. EDT (1730 GMT) news conference.
Pawlowski was previously implicated in a scheme to steer contracts to at least one company whose executives had contributed thousands of dollars to the mayor’s political action committee, according to court papers.
In March, the eastern Pennsylvania city’s former managing director, Francis Dougherty, pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.
Pawlowski was not named in court papers at that time, but he matched the description of “Public Official #3” with whom Dougherty allegedly conspired to award a $3 million street lighting contract to a company whose leaders had donated to the mayor’s PAC.
The mayor, who has denied wrongdoing, was scheduled to address the charges at a news conference later on Wednesday.
Editing by G Crosse and Andrew Hay