Former Allentown official charged in FBI corruption probe

     City Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania on August 26, 2016. (Jessica Kourkounis/For Keystone Crossroads)

    City Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania on August 26, 2016. (Jessica Kourkounis/For Keystone Crossroads)

    Allentown’s former top administrator has pleaded guilty in an ongoing FBI pay-to-play corruption probe.

    Former Allentown Managing Director Francis Dougherty appeared in a Philadelphia courtroom Wednesday morning to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge. Court documents say he has agreed to testify about “political corruption in Allentown.”

    Prosecutors say Dougherty helped rig a $3 million contract to replace the city’s street lights so that it would go to a company whose executives and consultants gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to his boss, Mayor Ed Pawlowski. The Democrat mounted unsuccessful runs for governor in 2014 and the U.S. Senate in 2015.

    Pawlowski hasn’t been charged, but he matches the description of the unnamed public official in court papers.

    Through his attorney, Pawlowski has denied misusing his office.

    Ironically, Dougherty, while employed at the School District of Philadelphia in 2010, Dougherty blew the whistle on the district’s discriminatory contract practices. 

    His attorney, Lisa Mathewson, says Dougherty is still a man of good character.

    “Unfortunately in Allentown, he got caught up in something from which he couldn’t extract himself and now he has accepted responsibility for his role in it,” Mathewson said.

    The attorney added that Dougherty looks forward to telling the whole story during his sentencing hearing June 27. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.

    Several other Allentown officials have pleaded guilty in the probe.

    Keystone Crossroads’ Annette John-Hall contributed to this report. 

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