Scranton, Pa

Former Fountain Hill Borough Manager Sentenced to Two Years of Probation

Posted: April 15, 2024

On March 22, 2024, Eric Gratz was sentenced to two years of probation for two counts of  criminal solicitation by the Honorable Judge Anna-Kristie M. Marks in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. Gratz was employed as a borough manager for the Borough of Fountain Hill when the conduct occurred.

In February 2023, investigators in the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office began investigating Gratz after the Fountain Hill borough mayor’s office received a complaint regarding Gratz. The victim, who was seventeen years old and serving as a junior firefighter with the Fountain Hill Fire Department, filed the complaint against Gratz.

This complaint alleged that in December 2022, Gratz initiated conversations with the victim while working as the borough manager and exchanged cell phone numbers with the victim for work purposes. The investigation revealed that Gratz then texted the victim and offered to pay her money in exchange for sexual acts. Gratz used a borough-issued cell phone for all his communications with the victim. The investigation did not reveal whether any sexual conduct ever occurred between Gratz and the victim.

After Gratz was charged in March 2023, the Fountain Hill Borough Council voted to place him on unpaid administrative leave pending the resolution of the criminal charges. In July, Fountain Hill Borough Council voted 6-1 in favor of terminating his employment as borough manager.

After the initial charges were filed, another victim came forward, resulting in a second count of criminal solicitation filed against Gratz in May 2023. In 2021, Gratz was employed as the Director of Emergency Medical Services for the City of Allentown. In July 2021, Gratz approached the victim, who he hired, while he was serving in his role as Director of Emergency Medical Services. In October 2021, Gratz told the victim that she was “not fit to work at the agency and to not show up for work” even though he hired her. In November 2021, Gratz then contacted the victim on social media, offering to pay her money in exchange for a sexual act and the victim refused.

This case illustrates another example of an individual in power using their position to exploit others. Gratz used his position as both the Fountain Hill Borough Manager and the Director of Emergency Medical Services for the City of Allentown to exploit these women for the purposes of buying sex. There is an inherent power imbalance at play when the person paying for sex holds a position of power in the community. At the CSE Institute, we have observed lawyers, doctors, teachers, bosses, landlords, law enforcement, and coaches who have used their power, wealth, or status to manipulate, sexually assault, rape, and exploit others. Gratz’s conviction highlights the ongoing issue that people in positions of power continue to exploit vulnerable populations and perpetuate the structural inequalities that allow commercial sexual exploitation to continue.

The CSE Institute commends the efforts of the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office, Special Victim’s Unit and Lehigh County Detective Gregg Dietz for their diligent investigation of Gratz’s crimes, as well as the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office for working to ensure individuals who sexually exploit others will be held accountable. More importantly, the CSE Institute commends the bravery of the victims who reported Gratz’s behavior. After all, it is without a doubt that survivor voices will be the ones to promulgate change in the sex trafficking narrative. We continue to urge organizations to establish proper procedures for investigating and effectively handling reports of abuse in hopes of facilitating relief and justice for potential victims.

To combat human trafficking, law enforcement officials need to redirect their efforts to identify and support victims. By targeting those who traffic victims and those who buy sex, law enforcement officials can cause a decrease in demand for purchasing sex. When the demand for commercial sex is decreased, traffickers will no longer perpetuate harm to victims because there will be no demand to cater to, thus, decreasing the number of victims of sex trafficking.

The CSE Institute advocates for the adoption of the Equality Model in the United States. The Equality Model consists of four key elements: (1) decriminalization of the prostituted person, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and facilitators with a commitment to treating buying sex as a serious crime, (3) a public education campaign about the inherent harms of prostitution, and (4) funded, robust, holistic exit services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The Equality Model directly targets the demand for buying sex by criminalizing sex buyers and traffickers, while decriminalizing the people who are being bought and sold for commercial sex. The decriminalization of people in prostitution recognizes those who are bought and sold for sex as exploited, not as perpetrators of a crime.

The CSE Institute will provide updates on this matter as they become available.

All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.

Category: News

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