Report: Pa. Supreme Court justice got benefits from Johnny Doc’s Local 98

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge Elect Kevin Dougherty (left) hugs his brother John Dougherty at a post-election party at the Stagehands Union Hall in South Philadelphia. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge Elect Kevin Dougherty (left) hugs his brother John Dougherty at a post-election party at the Stagehands Union Hall in South Philadelphia. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty may have broken disclosure rules for not reporting that a union paid for his home repairs, according to a published report.

The money and other perks allegedly came from the union that his brother John Dougherty controls and is now under scrutiny.

John Dougherty and several associates were charged with stealing and embezzling from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 to benefit friends and family members in a federal indictment last week.

The Philadelphia Inquirer cites five unnamed sources as saying that one recipient of the benefits, described in the indictment as “Family Member No. 4,” is Kevin Dougherty, who was elected to the State Supreme Court with his brother’s help in 2015.

WHYY could not independently confirm the identity of Family Member No. 4.

Kevin Dougherty was not charged in the indictment, and his attorney said he did nothing wrong.

The perks

The indictment claims John Dougherty, known as “Johnny Doc,” offered a membership to the Sporting Club at the Bellevue in Philadelphia to Family Member No. 4, saying, “I got a different world than most people ever exist in. I am able to take care of a lot of people all the time.”

More significantly, the indictment says, a contractor performed work on the family member’s Philadelphia home in 2011 and charged it to the union, resulting in one of the many theft counts in the indictment.

At the time, Kevin Dougherty was a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge.

Judges in Pennsylvania are required to report gifts worth more than $250 on annual disclosure forms, and Dougherty reported no gifts that year.

Judges don’t have to report gifts from relatives, but if the union paid for the work, it would be regarded as the source of the gift — and that would require disclosure.

According to a 2015 Pennsylvania Supreme Court order detailing reporting requirements, willful falsification of a disclosure report “may result in the suspension of the judicial officer, and shall constitute a charge of misconduct and result in a referral of the case to the Judicial Conduct Board for disposition.”

Kevin Dougherty’s attorney, Courtney Saleski, said in an email that he “always paid [the contractor] for its services at his home” and that he has “always properly disclosed gifts of which he was aware.”

The indictment also alleges that the union paid for snow-removal services at the family member’s home in January 2016.

Saleski said Kevin Dougherty “had no reason to know” who shoveled the snow at his home on the day referenced in the indictment, more than three years ago. She said Kevin Dougherty and his neighbors shovel their own snow.

Saleski also said that Kevin Dougherty did not accept a free membership at the Bellevue Sporting Club and has never been a member there.

More information may emerge at John Dougherty’s trial, which has not been scheduled.

The politics

Whether any legal issues arise about Justice Dougherty’s conduct or not, the story has generated political waves.

Judicial elections are partisan in Pennsylvania, and Dougherty was one of three Democrats elected to the state’s high court in 2015.

Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio quickly called for investigations of Kevin Dougherty by federal and state prosecutors, and by the Judicial Conduct Board.

“The fact that Justice Kevin Dougherty, a sitting Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, received the same union-paid benefits his brother has been indicted for is a serious matter that raises a number of questions,” DiGiorgio said in a statement.

“Did Justice Dougherty knowingly request and/or accept these benefits? Was there any quid-pro-quo?” DiGiorgio’s statement said. “Did Justice Dougherty properly disclose the receipt of these benefits? Did Justice Dougherty violate any ethical obligation if he failed to disclose the receipt of these benefits?”

Kevin Dougherty won’t go before voters in a retention election until 2025.

Disclosure: IBEW Local 98 represents engineers at WHYY.


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