Addressing city council Tuesday night, Bethlehem city controller George Yasso said he was “not satisfied yet” with findings that revealed an alleged financial scheme by the city’s former finance director, and the investigation is ongoing.
Last week, the Northampton County district attorney’s office announced the city’s former finance director, Mark Sivak, faces charges of felony theft, receiving stolen property and other offenses. Sivak was fired from his post the week before.
An investigation from the city controller’s office found Sivak allegedly bought electronics via the city’s PayPal account, resold them and pocketed more than $12,600. Sivak also allegedly spend another $2,500 in city funds on audio equipment, virtual reality headsets and other items for his personal use.
The investigation by the controller’s office began in January when employees noticed unusual activity on a city-owned financial account.
Yasso said the office has not yet uncovered additional evidence of financial schemes or fraud on city accounts. But he added that Sivak’s actions were “not a lucrative scheme” and questioned why Sivak would risk his job and criminal charges for it.
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“It begs the question, what else is there? Is this the tip of the iceberg? Yasso said. “I can assure everybody that it is an ongoing investigation, I personally am not satisfied yet.”
The ongoing investigation involves the district attorney, the Bethlehem Police Department, the controller’s office and independent auditors, Yasso said.
Yasso added that the city does not regularly use its PayPal account for day-to-day transactions. Activity on the city’s PayPal account first began in 2012, when the city used PayPal for a fundraiser for the steelworker’s memorial. It was next used again in 2019, when it was linked to a city account to pay Bechtold Orchards and the Bethlehem Area School District for a seasonal farmstand outside of city hall.
The account was only ever used as a “pass-through vehicle” for funds to be moved to the appropriate city account, Yasso said.
“The alleged actions have done so much to damage the level of trust that a community can have in its local government, and I hope the fact that he was caught and caught internally at least begins to repair the faith that the public should have,” Yasso said.
The city controller’s office is responsible for audits and investigations into the city’s finances and is independent from the city administration.
Sivak was hired by the city in March 2007. He worked for Allentown from 2003-07 as an accountant supervisor and was previously a member of the Saucon Valley School Board.