Former Reading mayor's attorney: 'Mike Fleck is a liar'

READING, Pa. - The onetime campaign manager for former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer pleaded guilty Thursday to a pair of federal charges that stem from the FBI investigation of both cities.

Michael Fleck, the former campaign manager for former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer, appeared Thursday morning in federal court in Philadelphia, where he entered the plea to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery offenses and one count of tax evasion in connection with the ongoing investigation.  

"I think Michael made some bad choices and I think he regrets it," said Phil Laurer, Fleck's attorney. "He made some mistakes. The mistakes were discovered and made known and he took responsibility for it."

Fleck, who also served as campaign manager for Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, faces up to 10 years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines and supervised release.

"This guy was the main center point, the common denominator and the primary influence in this whole process," said Jeff Waltman, president, Reading City Council. "I really feel he was the ringleader between Reading and Allentown in persuading a lot of this behavior across the board."

The probe was started by the FBI last summer, when agents raided city halls in both Allentown and Reading, as well as the homes of Pawlowski and Spencer.

The wide-ranging investigation centers on public officials demanding campaign contributions from vendors in exchange for city business.

City officials in Reading did not hold anything back Thursday after Fleck admitted his role in the pay-to-play scheme.

"I always thought this guy was questionable, when I would see him, his interactions with people. He was extremely, I think, arrogant and difficult," said Reading Councilwoman Donna Reed.

Court documents released Thursday again implicated both mayors, with Pawlowski continuing to be identified as "public official #3" and Spencer as "public official #1"

Both public officials, according to the documents, directed their respective city officials "to give preferential treatment to certain of his past and potential political donors."

Several of those officials, including Allentown Controller Mary Ellen Koval and Spencer aide Eron Lloyd, have since resigned from their positions and pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges.

According to the documents, Spencer was concerned about his well-funded rivals when he was seeking re-election and he instructed Fleck his best chance at winning the 2015 Democratic primary was to maximize his campaign contributions prior to May 19, 2015, even if it would be in violation of Reading's code of ethics.

Spencer would lose the primary election to current Mayor Wally Scott.

Prosecutors said Fleck lied to the FBI and tried to warn officials the feds were on to them.

According to sources, Fleck later wore a wire for the FBI and recorded conversations with both Spencer and Pawlowski.

"I was glad to see he was charged because I felt he was responsible, yet I also feel he's gotten off pretty lightly considering the damage he's done," Waltman said.

"I certainly want any public officials who are implicated, as quickly as possible, to face the music," Reed said. "When you read these documents through, and he is clearly public official #1, and you read everything through, you see that a followup is imminent," Reed added, referring to Spencer.

Spencer's attorney, Geoff Johnson, released a statement Thursday afternoon after Fleck's plea.

He said, "It is readily apparent that Mike Fleck is a liar, a manipulator and not at all a trustworthy person.  His number one instinct is self-preservation and apparently he had gotten himself into deep trouble with federal authorities by lying about his income and evading an enormous amount of taxes.  There's no telling what a guy like that might do or say to get out of the hole he dug for himself."

Fleck is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

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