FBI Probe

Prosecution in Allentown pay-to-play could rest on Tuesday

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A Philadelphia-based attorney testifying in the Allentown pay-to-play trial told jurors that the mayor appeared to draw a connection between campaign donations and what he expected should be gratitude from the law firm for work it had gotten from the city.

Prosecutors on Monday continued their federal bribery and conspiracy case against Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who’s accused of trading favors and city contracts in exchange for campaign donations. His co-defendant, attorney Scott Allinson, also stands accused of trying to funnel some of that work toward his firm, Norris McLaughlin.

After three weeks of a host of secret recordings and witnesses that include city employees, former employees and a campaign aide that was close to the mayor, the prosecution is expected to rest its case sometime on Tuesday. If the prosecution finishes on Tuesday, the defense will begin its case on Wednesday.

Prosecutors called to the stand on Monday attorney Marc Feller with the Philadelphia-based firm, Dilworth Paxson. The firm handled Allentown’s lease of its sewer and water systems that provided a sizable upfront cash infusion the city used to address is pension deficit.

Asst. U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek questioned Feller about a June 2015 meeting in which the mayor and his campaign manager, Michael Fleck, met with Feller and Joseph Jacovini, an attorney and senior partner at Dilworth Paxson, to discuss the mayor’s run for U.S. Senate.

In a secret recording made by Fleck, the mayor asks for Feller and Jacovini’s help in raising $20,000 by the end of June. The meeting was held about two weeks before the June 30 quarterly fundraising deadline. The mayor had hoped to bank $1 million by then to show he was a serious Congressional candidate.

“If you can help me pull together twenty-thousand, I’d appreciate that,” Pawlowski said.

Jacovini is heard telling the mayor and Fleck that donors were “recuperating” from the 2015 primary season and that it may be difficult finding donors after months of other candidates asking for money.

“Well, all I can say is, we’ll try,” Jacovini said. “I can give you my word.”

It shouldn’t be that hard to pull it together,” the mayor replies laughing.

With all the money that you guys made over the last couple of years,” Pawlowski said.

Prosecutors said the mayor and Feller later walk to the elevator and discuss the prospect of a lease concession for the city golf course similar to the one Allentown approved for its water and sewer systems. The mayor intimates that he’ll send Feller an outline of the proposal.

Fleck and Pawlowski are later heard on tape complaining about the Feller and Jacovini hesitating on whether they can help the mayor raise $20,000.

“Good job. Way to hammer it home,” Fleck said. “Can you believe this guy is going to give you (expletive) over 20 thousand over all the work you’ve gave them?”

“He’s talking about playing golf in Scotland,” Pawlowski said. “I left like saying to him, ‘If you’re going to play golf in Scotland, you can afford to give me some, you know, help me out.”

Feller clarified that he never played golf in Scotland.

During cross-examination, Pawlowski defense attorney Jack McMahon noted that Feller and the firm “historically” donated to the mayor’s campaigns. Feller testified that he gave $500 for the Pawlowski’s senate run and said he believed the firm donated to the mayor’s failed gubernatorial run a year earlier.

As for the prospect of leasing the golf course, McMahon played a lengthy recording of the mayor making his pitch as a senate candidate, noting he never once brought it up to Jacovini. He discussed it on the way to the elevator with an attorney, who had experience in such agreements, McMahon argued.

“I guess I’d be the logical person to speak with,” Feller said.

But the prosecution saw the interaction very differently.

“At the beginning of the meeting, he asked for $20,000,” Wzorek said of the mayor during re-direct. “At the end of the meeting, he offered you more work.”

McMahon objected to the characterization of the meeting, but Wzorek told the jury that the mayor talked about donations and the prospect of more legal work for Feller’s firm in the same conversation. He also repeated the mayor’s comment that it should be easy for the firm to raise $20,000 considering all the work it had done for Allentown.

Feller said that comment, to him, made a distinction between money coming directly from the firm versus its partners seeking out potential donors on the mayor’s behalf.

There was a connection there, Feller said, although it may have been one of expected gratitude on behalf of the firm.

“He drew the connection,” Feller said of the mayor. “We didn’t draw the connection. He drew the connection.”

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