Firm president agreed to help Reading mayor after election loss, feds say

PHILADELPHIA - The president of a Lehigh County-based engineering firm has admitted to contributing thousands of dollars to the re-election campaign of then-Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer in an effort to be rewarded with city contracts, according to federal prosecutors.

Matthew McTish pleaded guilty on April 28 to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery offenses, according to court documents unsealed by U.S. attorney's office on Tuesday.

The plea is part of an ongoing FBI investigation that began last July, when agents raided Spencer's home, as well as his office and others in Reading City Hall.

McTish, identified in previous court papers as "donor #2," is president of McTish, Kunkel & Associates, a firm that heavily relies on contracts with government organizations in Pennsylvania, including Reading, officials said.

Spencer, continuing to be referred to by prosecutors as "public official #1," identified certain engineering firms, including McTish's, as promising targets for his "pay to play schemes," the feds said Tuesday.

As mayor, Spencer believed the firms would rather lose thousands of dollars to his campaign than to lose millions of dollars' worth of city contracts, officials said.

McTish admitted that, under pressure from Spencer and his subordinates, he agreed to pay thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in order to be considered for municipal contracts in Reading, officials said.

According to court documents:

  • On or about April 23, 2014, McTish and Spencer met at a restaurant, where McTish gave Spencer a $1,500 campaign contribution. Spencer told McTish that he would use his elected office to help McTish's firm receive engineering contracts from Reading.
  • On or about Dec. 22, 2014, McTish caused a $1,125 contribution to be made to Spencer's re-election campaign. The next day, Spencer spoke to a Reading official, about awarding a city contract to McTish's company.
  • On or about April 11, 2015, McTish attended a fundraiser for Spencer and gave him a $1,500 campaign contribution. Spencer told McTish he would use his elected office to help McTish's company receive additional work with the city.
  • Shortly before the May 19, 2015, primary election, in exchange for the "inside track" on the award of a Reading engineering contract, McTish caused others to donate approximately $1,000 to Spencer's re-election campaign. Shortly after the election, Spencer instructed his aide Eron Lloyd to ensure that McTish was "taken care of" with respect to the contract.
  • On or about June 4, 2015, at Spencer's direction, Lloyd met with McTish for the purpose of helping McTish's company receive a contract. In exchange, McTish made and caused others to make contributions to Spencer's campaign. At that meeting, McTish provided a $500 check to the Reading Political Action Committee.

McTish said he also agreed to continue raising money for Spencer even after he lost re-election so that Spencer could help McTish's firm before he left office. The money would be Spencer's "best chance of retiring his campaign debt," according to court documents.

Spencer lost his bid for re-election in the May 2015 primary; he left office in January 2016.

McTish's attorney, Laurel Brandstetter, released the following statement on her client's behalf:

"Since Matt's name first surfaced in the FBI investigation last summer, he has been coming to terms with his role in the culture of corruption that was once rampant in Reading and Allentown.

"Matt participated solely out of concern that if he didn't, his firm would lose business to a firm that did.

"Matt is cooperating with the authorities because he believes it's his responsibility to help combat the rampant greed that persists in the awarding of government contracts.

"Matt's sentencing on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery is scheduled for Aug. 2, 2016. In the meantime, McTish Kunkel has developed and is implementing an aggressive ethics and compliance program for everyone in the firm.

Matt has also stepped down as president of MKA. His brother, David McTish now serves as president."

McTish, 57, of Orefield, Lehigh County, faces up to five years in prison, a possible fine and three years of supervised release.

Spencer has not been been charged in the case. His attorney told WFMZ's Ryan Hughes on Tuesday that he had no comment on McTish's guilty plea and the new allegations against his client.

Lloyd, the former Spencer aide, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges.

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