Reading City Council Prez Admits Taking Bribe to Repeal City’s Ethics Law

The amount of the bribe in question: Just $1,800.

Reading City Council President Francis Acosta via LinkedIn

Reading City Council President Francis Acosta via LinkedIn

It’s always a bad thing when an elected official accepts a bribe. But in the case of Reading, Pennsylvania, City Council President Francis Acosta, he accepted a bribe to repeal the city’s ethics law, a measure put in place to prevent corruption.

According to the United States Attorney in Philadelphia, the 39-year-old Acosta admitted taking a bribe of $1,800 to repeal two sections of Reading’s Code of Ethics. The first, Section 1012, limits campaign contributions for those seeking public office. And the second, Section 1006(H), prevents the city from awarding no-bid contracts to donors whose contributions have gone over the limit.

Earlier this year, Acosta was approached by an unnamed elected official in Reading who wanted those measures repealed. According to the details of a guilty plea (below) entered into by Acosta, that official offered to make an $1,800 “loan” to the campaign of another unnamed public official, an Acosta ally, and assuming that the measures were repealed as requested, the so-called loan would be forgiven. Acosta says he accepted the payment and introduced legislation three days later to repeal Section 1012, which would, in effect, make the other section moot. And Acosta did his due diligence, lobbying the other members of City Council to vote to repeal.

On April 21st, FBI agents interviewed Acosta about the bribe. According to prosecutors, he lied during the interview, flat out denying that he had received a bribe check from the official. Shortly after the interview, he tried to get out of the agreement with the official, and then he went to investigators to admit his wrongdoing. City Council voted on the repeal bill without him, and the bill was defeated in a unanimous “no” vote.

Prosecutors won’t say who the main unnamed official is but did note that it was a person who “had the power to sign into law ordinances that had been passed by City Council” and who was a candidate in Reading’s Democratic primary in May. Reading’s current mayor, Vaughn Spencer, has the power to sign those ordinances into law, and he was a (defeated) candidate in that primary. Neither the mayor nor his spokesperson could be reached for comment. Spencer’s home and offices were raided by the FBI in July.

Acosta is scheduled to be sentenced in November, and he faces a maximum of five years in prison plus a fine of up to $250,000 and three years probation. His official City Council Facebook page and LinkedIn page have been removed.

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