“I don’t give a f*** about anybody, all right, but f***ing you & us, you know that.”
— City Councilmember Bobby Henon, on Page 117 of United States of America v. John Dougherty, Robert Henon, et al.
The feds say these words were spoken by Councilmember Bobby Henon to assure his political patron John Dougherty he was taking care of his interests, but it is also the defining sentence that sums up the sorry lot of them.
Wednesday, the feds released a stomach-turning 160-page indictment charging conspiracy, embezzlement, theft of honest services, fraud, and other charges related in part to the stealing of Local 98 union funds for personal use of Dougherty and associates — at least $600,000. It also includes the wholesale stealing of democracy, in Dougherty’s alleged control of a City Councilmember on his payroll.
The immediate victims are Local 98’s union members, whose dues financed Dougherty’s daily life, but the impact of these crimes ripple well past that group to include all of us — including sick children. Here are three immediate takeaways.
The Cocoa Pebbles Papers. The banality of corruption outlined in the indictment is shocking. Much of the money Dougherty and his Local 98 associates were accused of stealing centered on the union’s American Express cards used, feds say, to buy household and personal items at Target. Doc or his minions filled shopping carts with razors, baby wipes, teeth whitening strips, and an astonishing variety of breakfast cereal — from Honey Bunches of Oats to Lucky Charms and Cocoa Pebbles.
The feds also claim Henon stopped an audit from Philadelphia Parking Authority in exchange for installation of windows for a friend.
It’s bad enough to steal and embezzle as the indictment charges, but to do it for such mundane and pedestrian items is embarrassing, and somehow worse.
Henon should step down. Henon, a paid Local 98 employee, moonlights as a City Council member installed by Dougherty to do his bidding, which feds claim meant using the law to punish Dougherty’s enemies. The indictment claims that Dougherty’s (and Henon’s) support for a soda tax was to punish rival Teamsters. Henon held Council hearings to investigate a company that towed Dougherty’s car. And, the feds claim he got L&I to shut down the installation of MRI machines at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania — twice — because the job wasn’t given to Local 98. Henon, who is Majority Leader and a Committee chair, is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but in the court of politics, these charges are inalienable breaches of trust to his constituents and an insult to all city residents.
Democrats need to step up. Dougherty’s outsized influence and money erodes the public’s trust in government — and now splatters doubt on all those who Dougherty supported. That includes the mayor and many members of City Council. Philadelphia’s Democratic Party should extricate itself from John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and his ilk — big money donors with outsized power over our government.
Democratic voters must demand integrity from a party that tolerates too many convictions and guilty pleas from elected officials. The city’s survival depends on it.