Lehigh Valley developer Ramzi Haddad has avoided jail time for his role in a pay-to-play scheme at Allentown City Hall. Haddad was sentenced Tuesday to three years of probation, 100 hours community service and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine. In September 2015 Haddad pleaded guilty to bribery charges after admitting to taking part in a scheme in which campaign money was traded for city contracts. Haddad said he donated food, drinks and cash to then-Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski's campaigns in exchange for being considered for building projects in the city. Pawlowski is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence after being convicted of dozens of corruption charges last year.
Former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer will be sentenced today for his role in a pay-to-play scheme at Reading City Hall. A jury convicted Spencer of federal bribery charges last August. Spencer traded city contracts for campaign donations and bribed the city council president to try to repeal the city's anti-pay-to-play ordinance. Prosecutors want Spencer to serve at least ten years in prison.
Allentown developer and former mayoral candidate Nat Hyman is suing the state in an effort to prevent the old Allentown State Hospital from being torn down. He says he's trying to prevent the state from losing a lot of money. "The state would spend $15 million to demolish those buildings and then turn around and sell them for $2.3 million," Hyman says. Hyman previously offered to buy the property and preserve its buildings, some of which date back more than 100 years. Hyman claims the state is not following the state's history code. Pennsylvania says it has cost taxpayers $2.2 million in matintenance costs every year since the hospital closed nine years ago.
The Diocese of Allentown is announcing it's launching a fund to compensate victims of sexual assault at the hands of clergy members. The Diocese says victims of clergy abuse can apply to receive compensation, although each case will be accessed separately. The payments will not be derived from donations, but instead from the sale of assets, using available money or through borrowed cash. Bishop Alfred Schlert says that while he knows money alone cannot fully repay victims for the harm they suffered, he hopes the fund can assist in healing and recovery.
An Allentown man is facing weapons charges after being stopped for bringing a loaded gun onto an airplane in Philadelphia. The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday that the defendant was detained Monday after a nine-millimeter handgun was found in his carry-on bag, loaded with ten bullets. The gun was seized and he was cited on weapons violations by Philadelphia police. The TSA reminds us that no one, not even someone with a concealed carry permit, can legally bring a gun onto a plane.
After several weeks of increasing numbers, the rate of flu-related deaths in Pennsylvania is slowing somewhat. Last week that number jumped by seven, but this week only five new flu-related deaths have been reported. That puts the statewide total at 133 for this flu season. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at more than 96,000.
Pennsylvanians are no longer going to have their driving licenses suspended for non-driving offenses. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill into law in October and it took effect Tuesday. Under the law, residents arrested for drug-related crimes and other non-driving offenses will no longer face automatic suspensions, which had been the case since the 1990s. The governor says lacking a driver's license keeps people from working and those barriers must be removed for those trying to turn their lives around.
Joe Biden is expected to make Pittsburgh one of his first campaign stops after announcing his candidacy for president tomorrow. Biden is reportedly making his official announcement Thursday morning, then visit the Teamsters Local 249 in Lawrenceville on Monday.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wants to hike gun permit fees up by 20-times their current level. He spoke at a firearm symposium Tuesday, organized by Rutgers University's Center on Gun Violence Research. Under his proposed changed, a carry permit would cost $400, identification car $100 and gun owner's permit $50. As it stands, those fees are all $20, $5 and $2 respectively. Gov. Murphy says charging more for permits will reduce gun violence and cut down on the number of illegal weapons that enter the state.