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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mayor Pawlowski's Consulting Gig Defended

Not too long ago, I told you Allentown Mayor Edwin E. Pawlowski has a consulting gig with Keystone Municipal Services, a privatized home inspector. Keystone already serves thirty municipalities, is looking to move into the Lehigh Valley and has bid on work in Lehigh and Northampton counties. Interestingly, and at the urging of Keystone consultant Ed Pawlowski, Allentown recently adopted its own home inspection ordinance. All residential properties must be inspected before a sale to ensure they are up to snuff at $200 a pop, and this is in addition to whatever housing inspection may be required by the lender.

What happens when the city decides it doesn't have enough inspectors to do all those home inspections in addition to the rental inspections it must do every five years? Will it privatize? Will Keystone get the job?

Keystone's Robert Sabatini has been in touch with me. Here's our exchange:

Sabatini: My name is Robert Sabatini, and I am the Managing Director, Management Services Group, Keystone Municipal Services, Inc. I noted in a recent column that you attempted to tie Keystone to a rental property inspection program. I am surprised that you did not attempt to contact Keystone regarding the relationship between the firm and the Mayor. Please allow me to clarify this business relationship.

Keystone is involved in the Early Intervention Program funded by the state. In 2004, Keystone was contracted by the City of Easton to work on its EIP program, a major component of which is a review of economic development activities for the City. We began work with Mr. Pawlowski after he resigned from the City, and prior to him announcing his candidacy for the position of Mayor. He performed some work with the Easton project, but had to turn it over to another party to complete. In 2007, Keystone again utilized his services for the EIP program in Lebanon City, and he was compensated by Keystone for his work.

With the exception of engaging his services and asking questions to clarify his report, I have had no contact with Mayor Pawlowski, other than being on an email list for events. Quite candidly, I did not know about proposed changes to the ordinance until today. Because Mayor Pawlowski has a business relationship with Keystone, we would have an affirmative obligation to disclose this information should we ever submit a proposal to the City for any work, and the political and legal chips would have to fall as they may. I would be surprised if Keystone were to attempt to serve the City in this manner, especially with the large workload that we currently have in our primary service area.

Mayor Pawlowski has never worked in the division that provides independent, municipally-contracted building inspection, zoning administration, code enforcement and related services to dozens of municipalities in southeastern Pennsylvania. He has strictly worked for the Management Services Group, with provides EIP services, interim management, executive search and other consulting services to municipalities and non-profit entities.

I hope that this information will help in understanding the relationship between Mayor Pawlowski and Keystone Municipal Services, Inc.

O'Hare: Thank you for your comment, which I will post as part of a separate blog. You were not contacted because this is not something you need explain. This is the obligation of the elected official to who disclosure laws apply. My own experience with Pawlowski is that he has been less than forthcoming, and I had no reason to expect any better from you.

What you've established is that the Mayor of Pa.'s third largest city was being paid by you for something during 2007. And despite what you're saying now, a recent Morning Call article claims your outfit is looking to expand into the LV. Is it mistaken?

I think I understand the relationship very well. Would you mind disclosing the amount of money you paid Pawlowski in 2007?

Sabatini: I do believe that there are insinuations within the comments section of the blog which would cause the average reader to think that this is a “pay to play” situation. It is not. We would like to expand into the Lehigh Valley, but we have never had any expectations of starting at the largest municipality in the region. I prefer smaller townships and boroughs.

If you were to look at our reputation, it is that we operate above-board, we are not politically connected (we work for Republican and Democratic boards), and we work on only one side of the fence – local governments and related non-profits (like fire companies). Our greatest strength is our reputation, and we aggressively defend it and take steps to ensure that we do not ruin it ourselves.

The financial arrangement is substantially less than what you think – remember, even consultants have to live within the constraints of local budgets, and we do not have a reputation as a high-priced outfit. However, we do not detail private financial arrangements with our employees or subcontractors.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

To summarize, Keystone refuses to reveal the amount of money it paid Allentown's mayor. It admits it's trying to get work in the Lehigh Valley but denies any interest in Allentown. Finally, it not so subtly warns me it will "aggressively" defend its reputation. Hint. Hint.

11 comments:

Joe Hilliard said...

Bernie,

I love the line that they work with both Republicans and Democrats.

Okay, that is the whole problem. The issue isn't what party a particular politician belongs to.

The issue is that politicians of BOTH parties (not all, but far too many) are involved in this type of stuff.

A politician should not be a paid consultant to ANY organization that does paid work for ANY political entity.

If they want Mayor Pawlowski's advice, or any other politicians, they should pick up the phone and ask. And get if for free.

This is pay to play whether it is a direct or indirect benefit to the company.

We let these politicos and organizations play these word games. And I cannot wait for they day that citizens who are Democrats and Republicans strip the party label away and admit what is going on.

Politicians should not earn one dollar for this type of activity. It is public service for a reason.

And, for those anonymous posters who will whine about partisanship - once more - BOTH R's and D's do too much of this crap. It should stop. And it doesn't matter what the party label of the politician is.

The real battle is not R vs D anymore. It is taxpayer vs. government.

Bernie O'Hare said...

A politician should not be a paid consultant to ANY organization that does paid work for ANY political entity.

I agree. I think the citizens of Pa.'s third largest city have the right to expect a mayor who is not moonlighting for a company that seeks to expand into this area.

And with all due respect to Mr. Sabatini, the best way to protect his company's reputation is to refrain from hiring publicly elected officials. No matter how valid the explanation, it does not pass the smell test.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know what the Mayor's sources of income are, just request his PA Ethics Commission filing for 2007.

nlvlogic said...

Would you mind disclosing the amount of money you paid Pawlowski in 2007?

Bernie:

1. That question is unclear. Do you mean as a campaign contribution? (that information is already public). Or do you mean as a private consultant? (That disclosure responsibility lies on the mayor, does it not? )

As to Keystone Municipal Services, KMS stated they hired Pawlowski after he resigned and before he was elected. I can say that in my experience with KMS and Mr. Sabatini, the outfit was very straightforward and professional. And no, I was not paid or given anything for this and nor have every received or was promised anything from them. No such thing was ever suggested. And no one asked my party, (I'm an R).

Tom said...

Very good article, point well made.

Just want to help clarify one thing. The home inspectors you mentioned, in the article appear to be really code and safety inspectors. A "home inspector" is special service provider that has to meet separate requirements. Also we spend more than 10 mins on a property, and work closely with (future) home owners.

thx,

Bernie O'Hare said...

If you want to know what the Mayor's sources of income are, just request his PA Ethics Commission filing for 2007.

I have it. In fact, i attached a portion of it to my previous post on this subject. Pawlowski's outside income come from Keystone and his own outfit, Urban Development Solutions. Unfortunately, the amount of income is not listed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

NLVLogic,

1. My question, which was unclear, is intended to elicit the amount of money that Keystone paid to Pawlowski as a consultant. The law places an affirmative obligation to disclose the outside source of income, but not the amount. Since Mr. Sabatini invited me to ask any questions, i did.

With respect to what Mr. Sabatini said, read it a little more closely. Pawlowski was hired again after he was elected mayor.

I would hope KMS was professional, but the possibility of an impropriety is why the law demands disclosure of those outside interests.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom, I appreciate your perspective.

Anonymous said...

BLAH..BLAH....BLAH...WE ARE HONEST. BLAH...BLAH...BLAH...WE ARE SHOCKED. BLAH...BLAH...BLAH....THE MAYOR GIVES US NO ADVANTAGE. BLAH...BLAH....BLAH....

LMAO

Anonymous said...

Bernie

I'm a little bit concerned then. An outfit invites questions, true, but gets slayed for their (non) answer on a specific question about a specific employee. I'm not certain KMS is authorized to disclose the salary paid to Mayor P. I'd think the criticism should be directed to the Mayor and not KMS. I'm not sure KMS should answer your question, (but I wish they did). My 02 cents. . .

Bernie O'Hare said...

NLVLogic,

And I appreciate your 2 cents. Pawlowski is not an employee: he's a consultant. Is it $1,300? $13,000> More? I agree the primary obligation rests with the elected official.