Allentown mayor, ex-Reading mayor, charged with corruption

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The mayor of Allentown and the former mayor of Reading have been indicted on federal corruption charges for engaging in a series of pay-to-play schemes where the politicians shook down businesses and individuals for campaign contributions in exchange for political favors, according to court papers released Wednesday.

Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski and former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer have been charged with multiple counts of bribery and fraud, authorities said.

Prosecutors allege Pawlowski attempted to steer city contracts for jobs such as streetlight upgrades, a cyber security deal and other legal work toward those who gave him money from 2012 to 2015. He tried to cover his tracks by deleting emails between himself and the donors he squeezed as well as having his office "swept" for listening devices he believed were installed by law enforcement, according to court papers.

Pawlowski acknowledged Tuesday he was being indicted and said he has no plan to resign while fighting the charges.

Spencer, who became Reading's mayor in 2012, sought to keep large sums of money flowing to his 2015 re-election campaign and is reported to have made clear to donors he would use the power of his office to punish donors who didn't provide satisfactory cash contributions, prosecutors said. In one instance, Spencer agreed to award a contract worth $227,000 to an engineering firm after a representative for the company told him he would receive a $1,500 contribution and four tickets to a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game.

The federal investigation of the two city governments began in 2013 and previously led to charges against a slew of lower-ranking city officials and contractors.

It became public in 2015 when FBI agents raided both city halls as well as the homes of Pawlowski and Spencer, both Democrats.

The indictments also named three others, including the former Reading school board president.

No attorney was listed in court documents for Spencer.

Allentown is Pennsylvania's third largest city and Reading is the state's fifth largest.