Philly Union Boss Indicted

116 charges against IBEW officials, city council Dem

money cash
Getty Images

One of Philadelphia's most powerful union bosses and the city's Democratic majority leader stand accused of embezzling funds from the workers they claimed to represent.

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."

The indictment accuses the union officials and Henon, a labor official and the city council's majority leader, of using union coffers as a personal piggybank. They allegedly used their positions to enrich themselves, buying everything from concert tickets to receiving free labor on their homes. The corruption probe conducted by the FBI, Labor Department, IRS, and several other federal agencies found that the group "conspired and agreed to embezzle Local 98 funds for their own personal use and the use of their family members, friends, and commercial businesses."

Union officials deny the allegations. When asked about the indictment, a Local 98 spokesman directed the Washington Free Beacon to a statement issued by Dougherty's personal attorney. The union is not covering the legal fees of the defendants. Henry Hockeimer, an attorney with Ballard Spahr, said Dougherty has spent his career advancing the interest of workers and called the charges "preposterous."

"John has devoted all of his energies to Local 98 and to those working in the trades in Philadelphia," he said in a statement. "Every move he makes is done in order to better the lives of the membership of Local 98."

Hockheimer said that the results of Dougherty's aggressive bargaining on behalf of workers in the city speak for themselves.

"The dramatic increase in wages, health care benefits and the overall standard of living for the membership is a testament to that singular focus," he said. "To allege that John in any way attempted to defraud the Union he cares about so deeply is preposterous."

Federal authorities also accuse union officials of exercising political clout to improperly advance their own interests. Henon, the union's former political director before being elected to the city council in 2011, allegedly served as Local 98's point man. Henon allegedly delayed legislation, killed accountability measures, and used his role to aid Dougherty in other ways. Authorities say the pair engaged "in a scheme with the intent to defraud the City of Philadelphia and its citizens." He received a salary of more than $70,000 from the union during his time in office for a no-show job.

"The citizens of Philadelphia had an intangible right to the honest services of their public officials," the indictment says. "Henon did not perform any significant work of any kind for Local 98 apart from his efforts as a member of the Philadelphia City Council to act as directed by and to benefit defendant John Dougherty."

Henon denied the allegations. He reported his union income and properly disclosed his relationship to the labor group throughout his tenure in public office. He said in a statement that he was elected "to give a voice to honest union men and women, working Philadelphians and those in need of a strong voice to represent them in this great city" and all of his actions were in accord with that goal, rather than any personal interest.

"I have worked tirelessly to protect and serve my constituents from being victimized by powerful companies whose thirst for profit is unquenchable," Henon said in a statement. "I have never committed fraud in my life. I have always served my constituents with honesty, integrity and have always put my constituents and the people of Philadelphia first."

The indictment came two days after New Jersey electrician George Peltz pleaded guilty to 10 federal charges, including tax evasion, connected to work performed on a union official's home. Peltz, owner of MJK Electric, allegedly installed a $40,000 security and LED system on the official's home and gave the official's relative $3,000 in services free of charge. He did not return request for a comment.