When governments have “secret” checkbooks, and public officials can pay for personal contract services without contemporaneous public review, public officials seem to consistently get themselves into corruption investigations, subjecting themselves to criminal liability.
The situation described in Allentown involves a number of substantial and well respected law firms. All are tarnished by the process in which they received 3.8 million dollars in attorney fees. Noteworthy is that a substantial proportion of the unchecked billings occurred out of eminent domain proceedings.
This is not unlike what had occurred in Bridgeport, Connecticut only ten years ago. There, the attorney received “bonuses” in the form of broker’s fees when he bought properties for the City, with the broker’s fee increasing as owners received greater amounts of alleged compensation.
The invitation is one which is too attractive to too many. Too frequently, professional services are rendered to those who are most active in the process rather than those who have a concern about being fair and paying what is Just Compensation to owners, which should be the most important consideration.
“For more than three years, the FBI has been investigating an alleged pay-to-play scheme in Allentown to determine if public officials traded contracts and other favorable treatment for campaign contributions, food and drinks. Three city officials and three others have pleaded guilty in the investigation, which was revealed last summer with the raid of Allentown City Hall.
FBI agents served the city the subpoena asking for thousands of documents related to more than two dozen people and businesses that worked or attempted to work with Allentown. Their examination covered the previous decade’s worth of records. In a series of stories, The Morning Call has analyzed bills, invoices and agreements from numerous contractors on the list.”
“Stevens & Lee topped the list with $1.79 million received over the 10-year span. Norris McLaughlin earned $1.73 million from work performed directly for the city and for the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority as it built the PPL Center arena. Duane Morris was paid $319,000.”
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