Lehigh Valley

Guilty plea in Allentown FBI probe

VIDEO Francis Dougherty enters guilty...

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Former Allentown managing director Francis Dougherty is now the seventh person to admit guilt in an ongoing pay-to-play investigation.

Once again, the feds are pointing the finger at Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Fran Dougherty had an office right next to the mayor, and it was fitting because he was outranked only by the mayor when he worked for the city.

Dougherty was Allentown’s managing director from June 2006 to September 2008 and from January 2012 until May 2016. 

His service to Allentown ended when he abruptly resigned last year, as questions lingered about his potential involvement in the federal corruption probe that came to light in 2015.

"Fran Dougherty dedicated his career to serving the public rather than enriching himself," said Lisa Mathewson, Dougherty's attorney.

According to court paperwork, Dougherty pleaded guilty to one count  to commit mail/wire fraud. The indictment came down on March 13 and was unsealed Wednesday. As part of his plea deal, Dougherty agreed to testify as a witness before any grand jury, hearing or trial when the government asks him to.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release , a $250,000 fine and $100 special assessment. Full restitution may also be ordered, according to the paperwork. 

The feds accuse Dougherty of corrupting Allentown's contracting process to steer a street light job to a company preferred by Public Official Number 3. That official fits only the description of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Charging papers say both Dougherty and the public official knew the award process was rigged.

The feds say Dougherty even threatened to fire someone in an attempt to help make sure the preferred company got the gig. The government  says that company's employees funded the public official's bid for state and federal office.

Mayor Pawlowski ran for governor and U.S. Senate, but eventually pulled out of the races.

Now he's in the midst of another race, seeking re-election as mayor.

"I understand there's concerns. I understand the concerns of citizens, but I'm going to tell you something, folks, if I believed for one second I did anything improper or inappropriate to this city I would not be running for mayor," Pawlowski said.

The FBI first started their corruption probe with a search of Allentown City Hall in July 2015.

Ramzi Haddad, Dale Wiles, Garrett Strathearn, Mary Ellen Koval, Michael Fleck and Matthew McTish are scheduled to be sentenced in May and June have also pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

Pawlowski has not been charged.

Meanwhile, State Representative Mike Schlossberg issued on a statement regarding Pawloski. It read in part, "Over a year ago, I called on Mayor Pawlowski to put the interests of the people of Allentown ahead of his own, and resign. Today, I am reiterating that call: For the good of the people of Allentown, Ed Pawlowski should resign as mayor,” Schlossberg said.

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