Pennsylvania’s Republican Party called Thursday for an investigation into allegations that Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dougherty received home-maintenance services that prosecutors say were paid for with money embezzled from the union his brother leads.
In a statement, GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio called an Inquirer report identifying the justice as the unnamed “Family Member No. 4” in the indictment of labor leader John J. Dougherty “a serious matter that raises a number of questions.”
DiGiorgio urged state and federal authorities “to ensure that there is no fatal ethical taint on Justice Dougherty that would preclude him from carrying out the proper administration of justice in Pennsylvania.”
Kevin Dougherty, a Democrat elected in 2015, has denied through a lawyer ever knowingly accepting the benefits outlined in the indictment against his brother — including a week’s worth of contracting services at the justice’s Northeast Philadelphia home in 2011 and a day’s worth of snow shoveling in the winter of 2016.
Prosecutors did not identify him by name or accuse him of any wrongdoing, leaving others – including Gov. Tom Wolf and the state’s two largest legal associations – hesitant to weigh in.
“There is insufficient information for comment,” said Rochelle M. Fedulo, chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
A spokesperson for the governor did not return requests for comment.
“We will await the outcome of the legal proceedings [against John Dougherty] to reach any conclusions about the justice’s conduct,” said Maida R. Milone, president and CEO of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. “[We] hope that if [Kevin Dougherty’s] conduct requires any action by the Judicial Conduct Board or the Court of Judicial Discipline that those bodies will be transparent in dealing with it.”
Kevin Dougherty, 56, is by far the most prominent of the 10 Dougherty family members who prosecutors say benefited from what they describe as the union leader’s illegal largesse. Others identified by the Inquirer, based on accounts from multiple sources familiar with the investigation, include the Dougherty brothers’ father, John J. Sr.; their sister, Maureen Fiocca; and John Dougherty’s wife, Cecelia, and daughter, Erin.
The justice was elected to the high court on a wave of manpower and financial backing provided by his brother’s union, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Just days before that election, the indictment alleges, John Dougherty was caught on an FBI wiretap offering the future justice a comped membership to the Sporting Club at the Bellevue in Philadelphia.
“I got a different world than most people ever exist in,” the union boss told his brother in late October 2015, according to excerpts quoted in the indictment. “I am able to take care of a lot of people all of the time.”
Prosecutors have not spelled out whether they believe Kevin Dougherty asked for any of the benefits he allegedly received. Nor did they specify how much union money was allegedly spent on the justice’s behalf.
In a statement Wednesday, Kevin Dougherty’s lawyer, Courtney Saleski, disputed the government’s characterization of those transactions.
She maintained that the justice rejected his brother’s offer to pay for the Sporting Club membership, had no reason to know who paid for the snow removal at his house, and paid for the contracting work, which was done while he was still a Common Pleas Court judge in Philadelphia.
Kevin Dougherty’s representatives did not immediately respond to request to comments Thursday on the GOP’s push for a wider investigation by judicial ethics authorities and state and federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors have charged John Dougherty, 58, and five other union employees with embezzlement, wire fraud, falsifying records, and accepting illegal payments. In all, prosecutors have accused them of embezzling more than $600,000 between 2010 and 2016.
They have all pleaded not guilty and vowed to fight the case in court.