ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - The mayor of Pennsylvania's third-largest city "sold his office" to campaign donors, trading city contracts for cash to fuel his political ambitions, a prosecutor told jurors Monday in the mayor's federal corruption trial.
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski rigged a series of contracts to go to law firms and businesses that supported his campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate, retaliated against vendors that refused to play along or didn't give sufficiently and tried to hide his tracks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek said in his opening statement.
"If you wanted a contract in the city of Allentown under Mayor Pawlowski, you had to pay," he said. "The fix was in."
Pawlowski, 51, who began a fourth term this month, faces an indictment that includes dozens of accusations of fraud, bribery, attempted extortion and lying to the FBI. The most serious charges carry a maximum prison term of 20 years each.
The mayor's attorney, Jack McMahon, denied an illegal quid pro quo, or explicit connection between city work and campaign contributions. In his opening statement, he called the mayor a "moral person" and accused prosecutors of relying on "conniving, morally bankrupt" witnesses to build their case.
Pawlowski's political consultants, Mike Fleck and Sam Ruchlewicz, cooperated with the government and secretly recorded conversations with the mayor.
"We welcome these tapes, we embrace these tapes," McMahon said. "We have nothing to hide."
He pointed out that Fleck, who has pleaded guilty, is heard on tape saying Pawlowski had done thing wrong, and that he was going to "try to set him up."
But Wzorek said the evidence shows Pawlowski rigged millions of dollars in contracts for legal, engineering, technology and construction work.
Worried about getting caught, the mayor twice had his office swept for listening devices, told city workers to use their personal email accounts to conduct business and talked about getting disposable "burner" phones, he said.
A co-defendant, lawyer Scott Allinson, is charged with bribing Pawlowski for legal work for his firm. He has pleaded not guilty.