ALLENTOWN, Pa. (CBS/AP) — The mayor of Allentown announced on Thursday he is resigning after being convicted in a federal corruption case.
Democrat Ed Pawlowski was convicted last Thursday of strong-arming city vendors for campaign cash in a wide-ranging scheme meant to fuel his political ambitions for statewide office.
Pawlowski says he will step down at 5 p.m. on Friday.
“I feel in the best interest of the city, its residents and the hard-working employees of Allentown, it is with great sadness I will be resigning from my position as mayor effective as of 5 p.m. tomorrow,” said Pawlowski.
The mayor apologized to the residents of the city over the case.
“I’m so very sorry that you and the city had to endure this long, drawn out saga,” said Pawlowski.
Pawlowski added that he was “disappointed and saddened” by the jury’s verdict.
Pawlowski, who remains free pending sentencing, faces years in prison. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
Pawlowski’s lawyer, Jack McMahon, told reporters the mayor “needed some time to reflect” before making the decision to resign before sentencing.
Asked whether Pawlowski would have chosen to do anything differently, McMahon said: “Maybe not run for the United States Senate. That’s what created a lot of the situation.”
Officials urged Pawloski to immediately resign after his conviction.
“He couldn’t serve the people before, he can’t serve the people after he’s been convicted, and a jury has spoken and he is facing many, many years in jail,” U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said. “He needs to get his affairs in order and address his criminal situation and leave the city in the hands of somebody who’s not corrupted.”
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he wanted Pawlowski gone too.
“He has disgraced his office and cheated the people of Allentown,” said Wolf’s spokesman, J.J. Abbott.
Authorities say Pawlowski masterminded a scheme to rig city contracts for legal, engineering, technology and construction work, all in a bid to raise money for his statewide political campaigns. Pawlowski ran unsuccessfully for governor and U.S. Senate.
The jury convicted him of dozens of charges, including conspiracy, bribery, fraud, attempted extortion and lying to the FBI. Sentencing has not been scheduled.
The Chicago native, who led his adopted city for 12 years and was re-elected to a fourth term while under indictment, is required by state law and the city charter to forfeit office.
Pawlowski was Allentown’s economic development chief before taking office as mayor in January 2006. The city’s moribund downtown was transformed on his watch, with valuable state tax incentives producing a new hockey arena, gleaming office buildings and upscale apartments.
“For the past 12 years I’ve faithfully served the residents of the city to the best of my abilities,” said Pawlowski.
He kept up appearances throughout the 5 1/2-week trial, responding to emails, texts and phone calls about official city business, signing documents and running a weekly meeting. Pawlowski showed up at City Hall — a block from the federal courthouse where he stood trial — a few times a week.
“We’ve got veteran people, veteran cabinet members and department heads,” said city spokesman Mike Moore. “Everybody just continued to carry out their jobs.”
Now Allentown, a city of 120,000 people about 60 miles north of Philadelphia, will need a new leader barely two months after Pawlowski began a new term.
Under the city charter, the City Council president will serve as mayor until council appoints an interim mayor, who will serve until the November 2019 municipal election.
Council President Roger MacLean, Allentown’s former police chief, said he’s ready to take the helm and help the city “put this in the past” once Pawlowski steps down.
“Has he done some good for the city? Sure, I wouldn’t take that away from him,” MacLean said of Pawlowski. “Evidently in this case, ambition might have clouded things and that’s the way the jury saw it. They understood what was going on.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)