Following a rules fight, a deadlock and a dozen rounds of voting, a former City Council president has been appointed as the interim mayor to take the place a former mayor who was convicted of trading city contracts for campaign funds.
On Thursday night, Council members chose Ray O’Connell, a former City council president, to serve through the end of 2019, the day before the next mayor of the city who will be elected by voters will be sworn in.
O’Connell stated: “I will run city government with openness and transparency.
“I will talk to all the stakeholders. No one will be shut out from my administration.”
The solicitor of the city had released a legal opinion that O’Connell, who mounted two campaigns for mayor in 2017, could not be chosen because of a charter provision that is hindering members from taking paid positions for one year. However, members of the council voted 4-3 to override the said decision.
Earlier this month, Ed Pawlowski, the former mayor, stepped down from his post after his conviction that involved charges including attempted extortion, bribery, lying to the FBI. The Democrat denied any wrongdoing. He was only two months into his fourth term. He remains t be free as he is pending sentencing.
O’Connell is an eight-year member of the council and a former school administrator. He came closest to defeating Pawlowski in the seven-way race for the Democratic nomination for mayor last May 2017. In November, he waged a write-in campaign.
O’Connell has promised to look for more sources of revenue for Allentown, the third-largest city of the state. He also said that the city should urge for payment instead of tax agreements with tax-exempt nonprofits. He said that he wants to fill in the soon-to-be-vacant position of police chief with an internal candidate. However, he said that he would be willing to look outside the police department if deemed inevitable.
The first 11 rounds of voting ended in a tie between the president of the Allentown school board, Charlie Thiel, and O’Connell. Thiel had promised to study the financial picture of the city, seek changes to the ethics ordinance of the city, and work with the school officials of Allentown to increase literacy.