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Johnny Doc, convicted in one trial and waiting on two more, gets a big retirement party

Former union leader John Dougherty's retirement party will raise money to cover his wife's medical bills, with tickets going for $200 each.

Former IBEW Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc”  Dougherty leaves the James A. Byrne United States Courthouse in Novemberafter the guilty verdict in his federal corruption trial with former City Councilmember Bobby Henon.
Former IBEW Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty leaves the James A. Byrne United States Courthouse in Novemberafter the guilty verdict in his federal corruption trial with former City Councilmember Bobby Henon.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

One of Pennsylvania’s biggest political players, John Dougherty, has a busy year ahead of him. He still has two more federal trials coming up and must be sentenced for his November conviction on bribery charges with former City Councilmember Bobby Henon.

But first: “Johnny Doc” gets a big party.

Dougherty, who stepped down in November as business manager for Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council, will be feted on March 10 in a “retirement celebration” fund-raiser at Vie on North Broad Street.

The five-page invitation says all proceeds go to a medical trust fund for the labor leader’s wife, Cecelia Dougherty, who has been dealing for several years with a serious neurological disorder.

Dougherty, who declined to comment, is hailed in the invitation for his work at Local 98 since 1993 and the building trades council, where he took charge in 2015. It lists “three decades of leadership” on projects, from the Convention Center to the dredging of the Delaware River to investments in the Navy Yard.

“One need only glance at the city’s stunning skyline to see John’s towering accomplishments on behalf of the city he loves and has always called home,” the invitation proclaims.

A ticket is $200. The invitation touts a trio of five-figure sponsorship packages. For $25,000, top-of-the-line “Electricity Sponsors” get 20 tickets to the event plus a VIP reception at the nearby headquarters of the Laborers District Council, led by Ryan Boyer, who took over as business manager for the building trades last month.

There’s also a “celebration commemorative book” being assembled with ads selling from $500 to $5,000.

Boyer told Clout he was sure the event will sell out.

“His wife has a debilitating illness that will require huge funds going forward,” Boyer said. “I’m encouraging everyone to give. Health care is one of those things that can wipe you out.”

It’s not uncommon for Philly politicians to get post-conviction parties just days before reporting to prison to serve terms for corruption charges. Former Sheriff John Green got one in 2019. Former State Sen. Vince Fumo threw his own in 2009.

A sentencing date has not been set for Dougherty’s November conviction. A federal jury found that Dougherty effectively bought Henon’s vote on Council with a side job that came with a union salary.

Dougherty is set for trial in early May for a second case, in which he is accused of threatening a contractor who employed his nephew. His third trial is scheduled for mid-September on charges that he and other Local 98 officials embezzled more than $600,000 from the union.

Bobby Henon stripped of his city pension

The trouble keeps piling up for Henon as the Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement voted Thursday to strip his pension and also withhold the nearly $142,000 he contributed to the plan over a decade in office.

Henon, 53, would have been eligible for early retirement this year with an annual pension of $42,770. He resigned from Council last month, just hours before the first meeting of the year.

Six members of the board voted to revoke his pension while two members, from unions that represent the city’s firefighters and police officers, abstained from voting without explaining why. All eight voted to withhold Henon’s contributions to the pension.

Mayor Jim Kenney had asked the city’s Law Department for a legal opinion on the issue. Ellen Berkowitz, a senior attorney for the city, told the board it had the authority to withhold Henon’s contributions to pay “any fines or restitutions” in his criminal case.

Henon, who is scheduled for sentencing on April 13, can receive the balance of his contributions if there is any money left after that.

Sharif Street won’t challenge Brendan Boyle

Pennsylvania’s new congressional map is out and State Sen. Sharif Street, after mulling the new district lines for half a day, decided against a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a fellow Philly Democrat.

Street was telling supporters Thursday morning about his decision, according to a source close to the senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly.

That caps a year of flirtations with higher office by Street, son of former Mayor John Street and vice chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. He started exploring a run for U.S. Senate last April before saying in January that he’d take a pass.

Plenty of political insiders wondered then if Street was building a federal fund-raising account to challenge Boyle as the district lines were being drawn.

Street, as Democratic chair of the Senate State Government Committee, negotiated for months with Republicans about a potential compromise congressional map that may have created boundaries favorable for a challenge. That map was not formally introduced.

Boyle’s district was largely unchanged in the new map. He finished 2021 with almost $2.2 million in his campaign account, while Street had just $114,000 in the bank.

Gilberto Gonzalez, who works for the admissions office at the Community College of Philadelphia, last year announced his bid to challenge Boyle in the primary.

Boyle, who in December tested his strength in his Northeast Philly-based district against Street in a poll, announced his bid for a fifth term Thursday. Street, now in his second term, is up for reelection in 2024.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.