Berks

Reading mayor: 'There's something wrong here'

Mayor Wally Scott spoke out after latest search of city hall by FBI agents

FBI returns to Reading; 'We need help,' mayor says; WFMZ's Alexandra Hogan reports

READING, Pa. - FBI agents were once again walking the halls of Reading City Hall on Tuesday.

The feds declined to comment on their visit, which came more than a year after agents launched an investigation into so-called pay-to-play politics in Reading and Allentown.

This time, Reading's current mayor, Wally Scott, said he raised the red flag.

"There's something wrong here and why they're towing cars completely out of the county," Scott said during a news conference in city council chambers Tuesday afternoon.

That's one of the reasons Scott said he asked the FBI to return to Reading. He said an agreement between the Reading Parking Authority and a Chester County-based towing company that was in place before he took office needed another look.

"We also found out today that they [FBI agents] were also coming to interview people about the past administration, and that's what they were doing here today," Scott added.

Two agents arrived around 10:30 a.m., heading to the third floor before moving to the city solicitor's office on the second floor. Solicitor Charles Younger met with the agents and Ralph Johnson, head of the city's public works department.

They had no comment.

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This latest visit comes 13 months after the bureau first searched city hall, as well as the home of then-Mayor Vaughn Spencer, as part of a widespread corruption investigation.

"We need help, but we need help from an outside agency coming in taking a look at where we are and that's why we're doing forensic audits," Scott said.

Those audits, Scott said, are being done by the water and parking authorities. One will also be done on the city sewer system.

"I'm looking does somebody know somebody," Scott said. "There was a saying years ago that went like this: 'If you see smoke, there's got to be fire.' Is there any familiarity? Is there any friendships that have caused this? And does it go beyond friendship? And that's what we're looking for and we're asking for."

In the time since the original raids on July 10, 2015, Francis Acosta, the former president of city council, admitted to accepting an $1,800 bribe in exchange for trying to overturn the city's ethics law. Acosta's attorney has said that bribe came from Spencer.

Acosta was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison; Spencer, while implicated by the feds in numerous court documents, has not been charged. He has maintained his innocence.

Two people who were once close to Spencer -- his special assistant, Eron Lloyd, and his former campaign manager, Michael Fleck -- have also pleaded guilty in connection with the case.

Matthew McTish, the president of a Lehigh County-based engineering firm, has also pleaded guilty, admitting to contributing thousands of dollars to Spencer's re-election campaign in an effort to be rewarded with city contracts, according to federal prosecutors.

Spencer lost his bid for a second term as Reading's mayor in the 2015 primary election.


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