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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Reading City Council Prez Pleads to Bribery

This comes straight from the United States Attorney Zane David Memeger's news release concerning Reading City Council President Francisco Acosta's plea to accepting an $1,800 bribe in exchange for an ordinance that would rollback limits on campaign spending:
In the spring of 2015, Acosta conspired with a person identified as “Public Official #1” to repeal these restrictions before the May 19, 2015 primary election through a bribery scheme, in violation of federal criminal law. Public Official #1 was a Reading public official who had the power to sign into law ordinances that had been passed by City Council. Public Official #1 was also a candidate in the Democratic Party’s primary election, scheduled for May 19, 2015. Public Official #1 decided to offer Acosta an $1,800 “loan” to the campaign committee of Acosta’s ally ( “Public Official #2”), which would be “forgiven” upon Acosta successfully orchestrating a repeal of Sections 1012 and 1006(H). Acosta accepted the payment on April 10, 2015 and then, three days later, introduced legislation to eliminate certain restrictions in the Code of Ethics in accordance with Public Official #1’s wishes (“the repeal bill”). As agreed to by Public Official #1 and Acosta, the repeal bill would have repealed Section 1012 in its entirety, thereby eliminating the restrictions on campaign contributions and nullifying Section 1006(H)’s prohibition on awarding “no-bid contracts” to certain donors.

To conceal his participation in the scheme, Public Official #1 sought to finance any campaign contributions to Public Official #2 with funding from third parties. Public Official #1 also sought to offer Acosta additional funding for the campaign committee of Public Official #2 as a reward for Acosta successfully orchestrating the passage of the repeal bill, although only a single payment – an $1,800 check payable to the campaign of Public Official #2 (“the bribe check”) – was ever provided to Acosta. When Acosta took possession of the bribe check, he agreed that, in order to avoid scrutiny of his agreement with Public Official #1, neither Acosta nor Public Official #2 would deposit the bribe check until a later date.

Acosta attempted to persuade other members of City Council to pass the repeal bill before the primary election by falsely asserting that he was motivated solely by the best financial interests of Reading and by concealing that he had received the bribe check. Then, on April 21, 2015, Acosta made materially false statements to FBI agents who were investigating the bribery scheme. Acosta falsely denied that he had accepted a bribery offer from Public Official #1 and that he had ever possessed or received the bribe check. In fact, as Acosta well knew, he had previously agreed to Public Official #1’s bribery offer and still had possession of the bribe check at the time of his false statements to the agents.

Within 24 hours of his interview with FBI agents on April 21, 2015, Acosta took affirmative steps to withdraw from the conspiracy, all without alerting other members of the conspiracy of the FBI’s inquiry into this matter. Acosta then met with the government at his earliest opportunity in order to accept responsibility for his wrongdoing. Acosta subsequently absented himself from the vote on the repeal bill, which was defeated unanimously by the remaining members of Reading City Council.

“Elected officials have an obligation to provide their constituents with honest services,” said Memeger. “When officials sell their services, particularly to repeal anti-corruption legislation, as Acosta admitted here, they do tremendous damage to the integrity of our governmental system. This office remains committed to investigating and prosecuting public corruption at all levels of government.”

“When government officials agree to sell their services, they betray their constituents who rightfully expect high ethical standards,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge William F. Sweeney. The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate allegations of public corruption, and work with our partners to ensure that those who violate their obligation to the public are held accountable.”

After accepting Acosta’s guilty plea, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez scheduled a sentencing hearing for November 18, 2015. Acosta faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, three years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like what we all suspect is being alleged to have gone on in Allentown. The timing is also right, and certainly the connection those officials had with Fleck.
Curiously, the Reading City Council President wasn't named in the subpoena to that city. Maybe because his goose was firmly cooked already?

I get the feeling, an indictment(s) WILL be coming to Allentown besides Mr. Fleck. Could even be people not named in Allentown's subpoena, by this example. Buckle up!

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

No doubt, Allentown city coucil would have rubber stamped the repeal bill.

Anonymous said...

Fleck strikes again

Anonymous said...

Pawlowski is not a crook.

All Allentown City Council members, past or present, are squeaky clean.

There is no such thing as "Pay To Play" in the City Without Limits, besides, the transformational NIZ would certainly be above such smelly behavior.

Just ask anybody.

Anonymous said...

Check out who the attorney for Acosta is. His name is on the guilty plea attached/imbedded in the mcall article.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Why not just identify him?

Charlie Touchdowns said...

I guess that's why he was hired in Atown. He knew what he was looking for!

Bernie O'Hare said...

OMG! Goldman! This is insane!

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

Why is it insane? If anything, it's the status quo at Allentown City Hall. Everyone's connected in one, big, crony circle.

The first thing to remember is the Allentown Solicitor is in this up to her neck. She was a Fleck client herself, and is in the Mayor's inner circle. She's not a bystander here, no matter how responsive to bloggers or polite she may seem.

Through her hiring of Goldman in the first place, she's allowing the Mayor to get legal advice for his problems, all paid for by the taxpayer. It also appears that the city is dragging its feet on complying with the investigation.

As an Allentown resident, I have to ask why the City needs outside counsel for this. The City isn't being looked at - the individuals serving are being looked at. The Solicitor is not supposed to be representing their interests as individuals.

It would seem to me that the only course of action the City should be taking is to fully comply with the FBI investigation and quickly turn over all documents. No need for expensive counsel to do that, maybe just a paralegal to index what gets turned over.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd disagree with your assessment of what is needed. I can fully understand the need for an experienced attorney to help the City get its documents together. Attorney Wild has handled this matter appropriately. No matter what your other complaints about her might be, I believe she has been responsive. Obviously, the Mayor has to be comfortable with his own Solicitor, but she would be crossing the line if she gave him personal advice. I see no evidence that she has. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. Being responsive is not just some measure of politeness. It is a measure of transparency, something very rare in Allentown. I believe she has tried very hard to handle herself ethically in this matter. If I did not, I would say so.

Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Wild brought in Goldman. (Cost?)
Goldman provided the expert advice the current mayor need, advice that you suggest Wild could not ethically provide, or simply didn't possess.
Have provided that expertise TO THE MAYOR,
Goldmans work is done, his service provided to his primary client, Mayor Pawlowski.
Thanks Attorney Wild, highly specialized technical assistance provided, at no personal cost to the client.
The taxpayers of Allentown pick up the bill.
Service provided. Wild appears clean.
Goldman moves on.

This was never about paperwork procedure.