The former top administrator in Allentown, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty Wednesday in a federal pay-to-play corruption probe that already has snared several other city officials and appears to be inching closer to the mayor.
Former Managing Director Francis Dougherty was in a Philadelphia courtroom to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge. He has agreed to testify about "corruption in Allentown," according to court documents.
Dougherty, who resigned last April, helped rig a $3 million contract to replace the city's streetlights so it would go to a company whose executives and consultants gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to his boss, Mayor Ed Pawlowski, prosecutors said.
Pawlowski hasn't been charged, but he matches the description of the unnamed public official in court papers unsealed Wednesday.
Pawlowski, who is running for a fourth term as mayor of Pennsylvania's third-largest city, has consistently denied misusing his office.
His attorney, Jack McMahon, said Wednesday he expects Pawlowski to be charged at some point.
"This indictment today changes nothing for the mayor. He did nothing," McMahon said.
Court documents said Pawlowski, identified as Public Official No. 3, ordered Allentown officials to give "preferential treatment to certain of his past and potential political donors" as the Democrat raised money for unsuccessful runs for governor and the U.S. Senate.
After Pawlowski told Dougherty which company he wanted to win the lighting contract, Dougherty "personally and directly interfered with the award process," court documents said. The company's CEO and other executives gave a total of $10,000 in campaign contributions to the mayor between 2013 and 2015. The company won the contract.
Asked Wednesday if prosecutors want Dougherty to testify about Pawlowski, Dougherty's attorney, Lisa Mathewson, said in a phone interview, "I think it is fair, in the context of the plea, to infer that that is one of the topics they're interested in."
McMahon said the indictment against Dougherty shows no wrongdoing by the mayor.
Several other high-ranking Allentown officials, including the finance director and elected controller, have pleaded guilty in the probe, which became public in 2015 when FBI officials searched municipal offices in Allentown and nearby Reading.
This story has been corrected to show Dougherty agreed to testify about "corruption in Allentown," not "political corruption in Allentown."