Former Bethlehem finance director pleads guilty to theft from city, spared prison time
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Bethlehem’s former budget and finance director on Tuesday pleaded guilty to stealing $17,855 from the city by taking or selling city property, including 31 cell phones and other devices, and keeping the proceeds.
Mark Sivak pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking, a third-degree felony, in a case dating to April 2022.
A statement from the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office said that Sivak admitted he had taken “and/or” sold the property.
Sivak was sentenced to a year of probation, restitution of $17,855 — with credit given for $12,630 he had already paid — as well as an additional $12,132.45 reimbursement to the city to cover investigation costs incurred by his former employer.
“The agreed-upon sentence was in recognition of having no prior criminal history and his immediate police cooperation and acknowledgement of liability for his wrongful conduct," the Northampton County District Attorney's Office said.
Sivak's total restitution requirements are $29,987.45, including the $17,855 in electronics and the $12,132 in the city's investigative costs.
“The agreed-upon sentence was in recognition of having no prior criminal history and his immediate police cooperation and acknowledgement of liability for his wrongful conduct, together with his immediate tendering of the $12,630.00 in initial restitution and acceptance of the City’s total restitution claim of $29,987.45."Northampton County District Attorney's Office
Sivak also will forfeit his city pension but will get his personal, non-city pension contributions without any accrued interest, according to the plea agreement.
In exchange for the plea, charges of receiving stolen property and criminal use of communication facility, also third-degree felonies, were withdrawn.
Northampton County Court Judge Anthony S. Beltrami oversaw the sentencing and approved the negotiated plea.
City Controller George Yasso said at a budget meeting Tuesday that he was in the courtroom earlier that day to witness the sentencing, alongside city solicitor Jack Spirk and other city staff.
“It was something that I’ve certainly felt strongly about that we were going to see through to the end,” Yasso said.
In a June 2022 report by WLVR-FM, Yasso said city Deputy Controller Michele Liberto and Accounting Assistant Michelle-Anne Millward discovered the spending scheme.
“It was something that I’ve certainly felt strongly about that we were going to see through to the end."Bethlehem City Controller George Yasso
James Burke, Sivak’s defense attorney, said the whole case was a “sad situation” for his client, who he said was highly regarded by others in City Hall.
“[He’s] a good man who made a bad series of mistakes with regards to what seemed like a minor matter, but ended up bringing down his career, I guess you could say,” Burke said.
"He was very well-liked by all the police.
“I mean, I had a number of character letters I would have been putting forward if we didn’t have this agreement in place.”
“[He’s] a good man who made a bad series of mistakes with regards to what seemed like a minor matter, but ended up bringing down his career, I guess you could say,"Atty. James Burke, Mark Sivak's legal counsel
Sivak was accused of using the city’s fundraising PayPal account to move money into a personal account to avoid taxes on used electronics he sold on the side, according to previous WLVR reports.
Sivak reportedly also used the city’s Verizon account to purchase the cell phones as well as a speaker, subwoofer, headsets and more.
Sivak was fired immediately following the uncovering of the spending and turned himself in to police in the days following.