The jury has spoken. City Councilmember Bobby Henon has been convicted on nine counts in a federal bribery trial. How much longer will he continue to get his taxpayer-funded paycheck?
After a six-week trial, Henon was convicted Monday on nine counts in a federal bribery trial tied to his work with labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty. Dougherty, who heads the city’s most powerful labor union, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and is also head of the Building Trades Council, was convicted on eight counts, including conspiracy and honest services fraud.
The Pennsylvania Constitution bars anyone convicted of “embezzlement of public moneys, bribery, perjury or other infamous crime” to hold public office in the commonwealth. That means that Henon must vacate his seat as the councilmember for the 6th District upon sentencing, currently scheduled for February.
With his conviction, Henon showed that Philadelphia still has not escaped its reputation as a city rife with political corruption. State and federal prosecutors have been doing their part to stem this malignant behavior. Henon’s conviction, and the fact that Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson of the 2nd District is also under federal indictment, should move City Council to act.
Most of Henon’s colleagues on Council were reluctant to call for his resignation following the indictment. Demanding his immediate resignation following a conviction is a no-brainer.
There is no reason for Henon to continue collecting his roughly $140,0000-a-year city salary for the next few months ... or even a few more days. The faster he vacates his seat, the faster Council President Darrell L. Clarke can call for a special election. Henon has already missed five Council meetings because of his trial. The residents of the 6th District, which includes parts of North and Northeast Philly, deserve representation — and a representative who isn’t worried about his legal troubles or what his second employer corruptly demands from him.
Having a representative who is worried about their constituents and not any other employer is a privilege that should extend throughout Philadelphia. Being a member of City Council is a full-time job — and any member who has time for a side hustle like Henon’s union gig should reconsider their commitment to their constituents. Had Philadelphia not allowed side jobs, Henon would have lost his $70,000-a-year salary from IBEW. More important, he probably would have never faced trial — let alone been convicted.
The conviction of Bobby Henon is a sad day for Philadelphia after six weeks of a trial in which Philadelphia heard, in exceptional detail, the many times a public servant wasn’t doing the people’s business — but was instead doing the dirty work of Johnny Doc.
The future, sadly, isn’t bright. Philadelphia has sentencing to look forward to, a trial in Kenyatta Johnson’s case, and a special election in which party insiders are going to have more power than the voters.
But this could be a turning point. City Council could use this moment to pass critical reforms such as banning outside jobs to put Philadelphia on a path to finally shake off its reputation as one of America’s most corrupt cities.