City Council should not underestimate the damage to itself inflicted by this week’s sweeping indictment of Philadelphia Democratic Party sugar daddy and union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, Councilman Bobby Henon, and others on 116 counts of stealing from union members and the public.
The Justice Department alleges that Henon abused his office and held a hearing to intimidate a towing company that towed Dougherty’s car, held up approval of Comcast’s city franchise until the company hired a Dougherty-recommended contractor, killed a Parking Authority audit in exchange for work on a friend’s house, and supported the soda tax to punish a rival union. Most outrageously, it alleges that he got city inspectors to harass Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for not using union members to install MRIs.
Because these allegations underscore the sickening ease with which one member apparently was able to put his own interests before the interests of the city, they also indirectly indict the entire Council and insert a shard of doubt into every action it has taken, every hearing it has held, and every bill it has passed. That’s why Council needs to take serious action to communicate that it doesn’t tolerate the kind of behavior the feds have outlined.
Council should censure Henon. It doesn’t have to wait for this case to wind out. It should remove him as majority leader and Council President Darrell L. Clarke should strip Henon of all committee responsibilities. Members should encourage Henon to resign from office. He has a right to defend himself — at our expense — but he has no right to his seat, and he’s going to be too busy fighting for his freedom to continue pretending he works for the public.
>>DOCUMENTS: Read the full Johnny Doc, IBEW Local 98 indictment
Council also should make the inspector general’s office permanent. Now, the inspector general is only authorized by an executive order that lives and dies with the whims of a mayor. The office should have jurisdiction over Council. How can anyone believe that the city’s legislature is free of corruption when past members George X. Schwartz, Harry Jannotti, Louis Johanson, Leland Beloff, James J. Tayoun, and Rick Mariano were all convicted of crimes against the city?
Clarke should immediately call a meeting of the Ethics Committee to consider bills penalizing members who violate the public trust. This is such a little-known committee that it’s unclear when it last met; an email to Clarke’s office was unanswered Thursday.
Council should pass a pending bill to clear up questions about how to unmask donors who hide behind dark-money campaign groups. It should also pass long-overdue reform legislation ending councilmanic prerogative, and ban outside employment. (Dougherty’s union gave Henon a $71,000 job.)
Mayor Jim Kenney is limited in his ability to withhold money from Council’s budget (since Council gives final approval to the city budget), but he can demand that Council’s own budget be more transparent to the public.
This is a pivotal moment for Philadelphia, and for City Council. It’s also time for voters to take action. Council stands for re-election this year, and voters shouldn’t waste their votes on any incumbent who fails to act on a reform agenda.