Mayor of Allentown, Pa. expected to face federal charges

     Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and City Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Jessica Kourkounis/For Keystone Crossroads)

    Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and City Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Jessica Kourkounis/For Keystone Crossroads)

    Federal prosecutors are expected to unseal a federal corruption indictment against Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski on Wednesday, capping a probe that has resulted in nine guilty pleas since FBI agents raided Allentown City Hall in the summer of 2015.

    Although pressure has been mounting for Pawlowski to resign since being implicated in the pay-to-play investigation, his legal team has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

    “Just because there’s a probe, you’re guilty? That’s not the fundamental concept of our system. If anybody thinks that then they shouldn’t be living in the United States of America,” said Pawlowski’s defense lawyer, Jack McMahon.

    McMahon said Pawlowki will be named as a defendant in the soon-to-be unsealed indictment. He would not elaborate on the pending charges.

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    Federal prosecutors have scheduled a press conference in Philadelphia for 1:30 on Wednesday to announce charging Pawlowski and others.

    Pawlowski is running for a fourth term to lead Allentown, the third-largest city in Pennsylvania. He won the Democratic primary for mayor in May and is set to face Republican challenger Nat Hyman this fall. Under state law, Pawlowski would not be required to step down from office until he is sentenced, in the event the mayor was convicted. 

    Among those who have already plead guilty in the investigation include executives who landed lucrative contracts with the city after allegedly bribing the mayor with campaign contributions and gifts.

    Never identified by name, Pawlowski neatly matches a person described as Public Official No. 3 in legal documents connected to the nine who have plead guilty in the investigation.

    Nonetheless, McMahon has said Pawlowski has had no direct contact with some of the business leaders who have been accused of buying their way into Allentown’s halls of power.

    Amid speculation that the mayor could escape legal trouble,, Allentown’s City Council last week asked federal prosecutors, via the adoption of a resolution, to make a decision on whether to indict the mayor or not. Inaction, the city leaders said, robbed “residents of any possibility of respectful governance.”

    “With this indictment, a new day is coming for the city and its residents,” Allentown Council President Ray O’Connell told the Morning Call. “The cloud is beginning to disappear. We’re finally going to get some answers.”

    McMahon said the mayor has long denied any wrongdoing, a position that will not waver in the face of looming federal charges. 

    “Ed Pawlowski is going to fight this all the way to the end because he did nothing wrong,” McMahon said. “Perception and reality are often two different things. And that’s what the courts are for: reality.”

    WHYY’s Lindsay Lazarski contributed reporting 

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