Allentown managing director may get large settlement in Philadelphia case

     Philadelphia School District headquarters. Before he was second-in-command in Allentown, Francis X. Dougherty reported alleged wrongdoing at the Philadelphia School District to the FBI. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dougherty may now receive a settlement of $725,000 from the school district. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Philadelphia School District headquarters. Before he was second-in-command in Allentown, Francis X. Dougherty reported alleged wrongdoing at the Philadelphia School District to the FBI. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dougherty may now receive a settlement of $725,000 from the school district. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Before he was second-in-command in Allentown, Francis X. Dougherty reported alleged wrongdoing in Philadelphia to the FBI.

    We’ve been covering ongoing federal investigations in Allentown and Reading, where prosecutors say officials traded favors for campaign contributions.

    Allentown Managing Director Francis X. Dougherty has not been charged with a crime, and it’s not clear if he had a role in any alleged pay-to-play schemes.

    But he is in the news this week, thanks to a federal lawsuit that he brought against the school district of a different Pennsylvania city — Philadelphia.

    Before Dougherty was Allentown’s second-in-command, he was the acting chief of operations for the Philadelphia School District.

    In that role, in 2010, he alerted federal investigators and Philadelphia Inquirer reporters of a $7.5 million contract he believed his superiors had awarded based on racial preference and personal ties to the firm.

    The school district fired Dougherty, and he moved on to Allentown. In 2012, he filed a lawsuit against the district, and jurors later ruled in his favor, saying the district violated his First Amendment right to free speech by firing him, according to the Tribune News Service.

    According to the Inquirer, Dougherty may now receive a settlement of $725,000. Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission is expected to vote in January on whether to award Dougherty the money and to drop its appeal of the court’s decision. In the Inquirer article, a district spokesperson said the document describing the proposed settlement, obtained by the newspaper from an unnamed source, is not final.

    A federal investigation in Allentown

    Again, it’s not clear if Dougherty had a role in any alleged pay-to-play schemes in Allentown. 

    What we do know is that his name was included in a federal document related to the investigation. In July 2015, federal investigators subpoenaed all records, related to a list of people and entities in Allentown, that were “created by, received by, or in the possession of” Dougherty, his staff or any Allentown public official who had office space in City Hall since 2005. 

    In addition, The Morning Call reports that questioning from Dougherty blew the cover of Michael Fleck, a campaign consultant who wore a wire for the FBI during conversations with Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. 

    During a breakfast meeting with the mayor, Dougherty asked Fleck about rumors that he was under FBI investigation, according to The Morning Call. The mayor then patted Fleck down in the building’s elevator, the newspaper reports. 

    The same day, Fleck closed down his business and left town, and the FBI raided City Hall.

    We’ll continue to post updates on the investigations in Allentown and Reading, as well as Dougherty’s lawsuit against the Philadelphia School District.

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