Former Pennsylvania mayor to be sentenced for corrupt fundraising

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – A federal judge on Tuesday will sentence a former mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, who was convicted of bribery and related crimes that prosecutors said he carried out to finance an abortive run for the U.S. Senate.

Ed Pawlowski, 53, was convicted on March 1 of 47 counts related to pay-to-play schemes in which he solicited kickbacks from prospective city contractors. Five of the counts were subsequently dropped.

Government prosecutors are seeking to have Pawlowski sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison.

“In committing each bribery, Pawlowski put his private interest – his ambition – ahead of the public’s interest in good government,” federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo. “He systematically corrupted the contracting process in Allentown to serve his personal interests.”

Pawlowski, a longtime Allentown resident who grew up in Chicago, had hoped to run for governor of Pennsylvania as a Democrat in 2014, but could not raise enough money.

He announced a run for the U.S. Senate the following year and decided he needed to raise $1 million by July 1, 2015, to be a credible candidate. Prosecutors said the pay-to-play schemes grew out of that goal.

Pawlowski served as mayor of the state’s third-largest city from 2006 to 2018 and touted his record on cutting street crime and the cost of government, while encouraging economic development that brought new life to Allentown’s downtown. He was re-elected a fourth time in 2015 even after it became known that he was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Mr. Pawlowski took a decaying and almost bankrupt city and turned it into a thriving and vibrant place to live,” his lawyer, Jack McMahon, Jr., wrote in the defense sentencing memo. “Building and construction came back, jobs came back, and the quality of life for all in Allentown was transformed.”

A number of Pawlowski’s Allentown supporters testified on his behalf at trial.

McMahon acknowledged in the memo that Pawlowski would be sentenced to at least some prison time, but urged Judge Juan Sanchez to impose a light sentence in line with those received by other elected officials convicted of similar crimes.

Pawlowski’s co-defendant, Scott Allinson, a local lawyer, was sentenced by Sanchez this summer to 27 months in prison, the minimum urged by prosecutors. 

Reporting by David DeKok; Editing by Jonathan Allen and Dan Grebler

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