International union sends monitors to Local 98 after Dougherty indictment

Crime scene tape surrounds two International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 buildings in the 1700 block of Spring Garden Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Crime scene tape surrounds two International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 buildings in the 1700 block of Spring Garden Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

When powerful Philadelphia electricians’ union leader John Dougherty was indicted last month, many wondered if he would remain in control of the local branch while awaiting trial, or be removed by the union’s international leadership.

Dougherty is still in place at Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), but officials of the international union are in Philadelphia “to monitor the situation and ensure that proper policies and procedures are being followed,” according to IBEW spokesman Mark Brueggenjohann.

Dougherty is charged with conspiracy, theft, and embezzlement of union funds, along with union President Brian Burrows and four other Local 98 members, including the union’s Political Director Marita Crawford.

City Councilman Bobby Henon was also charged in the indictment.

All have pleaded not guilty and say they did nothing wrong.

Ten days after the indictment, the international has released a statement that isn’t a ringing endorsement of Dougherty and his team but doesn’t signal a change in the local’s leadership, either.

“The IBEW learned of the indictment through the media,” Brueggenjohann said, and it takes the allegations “very seriously.”

He said representatives of the international have been sent to Philadelphia to monitor the local and make sure things are being run properly.

Local 98 spokesman Frank Keel said in a statement that local officials also learned of the charges through the media.

After FBI raids of the union office and Dougherty’s home in 2016, Keel said the union brought in top forensic auditors and followed their recommendations to improve controls and policies.

He said Local 98 appreciates the international’s role and is cooperating with their fact-finding efforts.

If the Dougherty team is still running the local, they presumably retain control of the union’s political action committee as the municipal election cycle approaches.

The union’s Committee on Political Education often spends more than $2 million a year on political contributions. According to its most recent campaign finance report, the committee had $7.1 million on hand at the end of December.

Here are the International and Local 98’s statements in full:

IBEW International spokesman Mark Brueggenjohann:

“The International office of the IBEW takes the allegations in last week’s indictment concerning officials of Local 98 very seriously. The IBEW learned of the indictment through the media. In light of the allegations, representatives of the International office have been sent to Local 98 to monitor the situation and ensure that proper policies and procedures are being followed. That internal process is ongoing, and we will have no further comment on it at this time.”

IBEW Local 98 spokesman Frank Keel:

“Everyone, including all of us at Local 98, only learned of the indictments after the government held its press conference last week. Immediately following the announcement, we dutifully notified the IBEW. Following the government’s searches in August 2016, we hired the best legal team, the finest forensic auditors and the most respected professionals in the industry to ensure the highest level of reporting and compliance possible. Recommendations were made by these professionals to improve our controls and policies and were considered and adopted by Local 98’s leadership. We appreciate our International’s role in this process and are working closely with them to facilitate their fact-finding and reporting efforts.”

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