Allentown council amplifies efforts to oust indicted mayor

 Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski arrives at the federal building in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 27, 2017. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski arrives at the federal building in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 27, 2017. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

The city council in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is taking additional steps to remove its indicted mayor from office.

Federal authorities last month accused Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski of awarding city contracts in exchange for bribes, but he has refused to step down.

Now, the council has passed a resolution to hire an attorney to try to figure out how to get rid of Pawlowski.

Among the tactics under review: petition the governor to remove Pawlowski; try to oust him from office through a city administrative order; and conduct its own investigation of Pawlowski’s “malfeasance in office.”

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“It’s a resolution. It’s meaningless,” Pawlowski wrote to WHYY by email when asked for a response to the effort to unseat him.

Allentown City Council President Ray O’Connell, who pushed the resolution to try to drive out Pawlowski, has launched a bid for mayor, hoping enough voters will write in his name on the November ballot.

Consequently, Pawlowski suggested that O’Connell’s motivations are impure.

“This is more about political posturing for Mr. O’Connell’s write-in campaign than about policy or the needs of the city,” Pawlowski said.

In Pennsylvania, indicted public officials must resign only after being convicted of a crime and sentenced. There is no legal requirement to step down while under indictment.

Pawlowski is running for a fourth term as mayor, and his corruption trial is expected to start in January, two months after Election Day.

Muhlenberg College political science professor Chris Borick said Allentown city leaders are frustrated.

“Council doesn’t want to wait. It’s very personal. It’s very pressure filled right now for the city, as they are, in many ways, stuck with the mayor,” Borick said. “I think they’d like to move forward and wanted a expediated clock.”

According to polls Borick has conducted of Allentown residents, the view of the mayor is nuanced, even after the federal investigation was revealed.

“Many think he has done a good job in the city with downtown redevelopment and other initiatives that have taken place. They give him credit for that,” Borick said. “At the same time, you see in these polls, I think, considerable amount of opposition to the mayor continuing on in office.”

Federal authorities accuse Pawlowski of steering lucrative city contracts to those who donated generously to his political campaign coffers. But Pawlowski has maintained that the transactions do not amount to bribery. He said he’s been battling against the perception that he has abused his office since it became known that he implicated in an FBI probe.

Now, however, he will have to overcome a 55-count federal indictment in a January trial set for federal court in Philadelphia.

“For two years now, my name, reputation and my city have been attacked. I know I’ve done nothing wrong, and it’s time for this to end,” said Pawlowski in the email.

“Some members of city council have seemed to have forgotten that one of the bedrock principles of our system is that everyone, which includes mayors and councilmen, are presumed innocent until proven guilty under the United States Constitution.”

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