Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A union boss leaves his position to run for municipal office. He’s elected and replaced in his old gig by a new union boss. Years go by and suddenly the FBI shows up and says they were partnering up to steal union dues while using the power of the city government to shovel more money to the unions. Sound familiar?
It should. And that’s the story currently playing out in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia’s branch of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is under close federal scrutiny this month after union boss John Dougherty Jr. and Democratic City Councilman Bobby Henon (who is also the Majority Leader) were indicted by the Justice Department, along with several of their colleagues. The allegations include some seriously brazen, gangster-style activity. (Free Beacon)
The Department of Justice indicted International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 boss John “Doc” Dougherty Jr. and several other union officials, as well as Democratic City Councilman Bobby Henon, on corruption charges. They face 116 counts of misusing of union funds to serve their own interests rather than those of their members.
“When union leaders misdirect the organization’s money for personal gain, they’re breaching their obligation to members—and breaking the law,” Michael T. Harpster, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia division, said in a statement. “Such corruption must not go unchecked. No matter how long it takes, the FBI and our partners will investigate and work to hold accountable unscrupulous union and public officials.”
Assuming all of the allegations in the indictment prove true (and the government certainly appears to believe they have a strong case while the defendants deny it), Councilman Bobby Henon and Doc Dougherty had a pretty sweet deal set up. Henon used to be the boss of the local IBEW, but quit to run for City Council. He was replaced in his old union position by Dougherty. Once he got in there, the wheeling and dealing began.
For starters, even while he was serving on the City Council, Henon was being paid $70K per year for a no-show job, just like something straight out of The Sopranos. It’s not illegal for municipal officials to hold other day jobs, and that happens all the time. But they’re generally expected to show up and actually do something.
On top of that, both men are alleged to have embezzled large sums of union dues over the years, spending the money on sporting and concert tickets or personal home improvement projects, among other things. Through the same period, Henon was using his influential position in city government to help pass bills favorable to the union and kill legislation aimed at holding the unions accountable.
The purpose of these labor unions is supposedly to put more money in the pockets of their members and secure the best benefits and job opportunities. These two allegedly decided to add a twist to the idea of “putting money in pockets” in a way which actually robbed the union members. But I suppose that’s just another day in the life of the Philadelphia Democratic Party.