Former Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on Oct. 23 after an investigation of which Pawlowski was convicted of 47 felony counts. A raid of city hall three years ago shed light on the corruption that took place under Pawlowski.
Pawlowski ended up being sentenced on 38 of the 47 counts he was convicted of.
His long sentencing came as a surprise for many, however, the betrayal of the public’s trust was significant in determining the length of his prison term, said Chief U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez when handing down the sentencing.
Brian Fife, the political science chair and a professor at Lehigh, said he wasn’t surprised with the sentencing given the number of counts against him.
“I thought 15 years was on the long side, but I wasn’t in the courtroom,” said George Nation, professor of law at Lehigh. “He’s not someone who was taking money to buy a new car, it was to fuel his political ambitions.”
Pawlowski reportedly offered no apology and showed no remorse while in the courtroom awaiting his sentencing.
Daryl Hendricks, an Allentown council person in his fifth year, has been vocal about the Pawlowski case from the beginning. When things started to unravel about what Pawlowski had done, Hendricks spoke up and said he should step down.
Hendricks said the majority of the community is grateful for the work that the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office has done in this case.
“I think those members of the community who are most informed and educated certainly believe this was long overdue and feel that he got what he deserved,” Hendricks said. “The people who are ill-informed, uneducated and only knew him for a short amount of time feel this was a travesty.”
Hendricks is one year into his second term at the city council and was a police officer in Allentown for almost 36 years. He is currently the longest tenured employee in the city of Allentown.
“I know a little something about the city, and I’d like to say I have a pretty good perspective on the mayor and his behavior over those 12 years, especially in the last couple of years of which he has become an obstructionist and not a very nice person to work with,” Hendricks said.
Fife said Pawlowski leveraged his history in office to achieve his political ambitions.
“He clearly wanted to be in higher office because he had run for government and then recently for U.S. Senate,” Fife said. “In his 3rd re-election for mayor, he was nominated by both parties. Republicans were happy with him. Democrats were happy with him.”
It was the only time in Allentown history where both major parties nominated the same one person.
But Pawlowski’s ambitions, evident in his pursuit of higher office, were for the wrong reasons, Fife said.
“The story of Ed Pawlowski to me is very unfortunate because every time a public official is found guilty of using public office for personal economic gain, we all lose, regardless of party affiliation,” Fife said.
Right now, Fife said we can’t afford any more cynicism about elected public officials being corrupt, because it gives the false illusion that most public officials are dishonest like Pawloski.
Fife said his studies of public service have shown that since the 1960s, public opinion polls have shown a decrease in trust, pointing to figures like Pawlowski as main contributors to the demise of the public’s perception of government.
Hendricks wants his city council to be as open and honest as possible and said it has been proactive about this case going back three years. They are now reviewing all city contracts and are live streaming each council meeting.
“I think that has a lot to do with being more transparent about everything we do,” Hendricks said. “It’s kind of changed our behavior as government as it should. Anything we do should be open to scrutiny.”