A private contractor is suing John Dougherty and the Local 98 electricians’ union he runs for racketeering and extortion.
The civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Philadelphia accuses the labor leader known as Johnny Doc of intimidating his rivals through physical violence.
In two separate incidents that have previously been reported, contractor Joshua Keesee accuses Dougherty and his union representatives of strong-arm tactics in an effort to coax Keesee into joining the union.
Dougherty “has earned a reputation for being combative and for intimidating political, business and labor rivals,” the suit claims, which Keesee is hoping will win him hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
In one episode, Keesee says union representatives pelted him with bricks. And in another incident, he says Dougherty and others assaulted him.
In that instance, which allegedly occurred on January 21, 2016, Dougherty and three associates drove to the townhouse construction site at 3rd and Reed streets in South Philadelphia and confronted Keesee before 9 a.m.
A dispute erupted over a union sticker on the back window of a work van, and Dougherty demanded that it be removed.
According to the suit, Dougherty told Keesee that “non-union workers were not welcome in South Philadelphia and that “we don’t want n—-rs here.”
Keesee is Native-American and has a dark complexion.
The dustup with Dougherty, Keesee claims, left him with a broken nose.
Dougherty then introduced himself to an eyewitness of the scuffle, the suit says, describing the labor leader sauntering over to the witness, shaking his hand and telling him he was running late to a meeting. Then he allegedly made the observation that “he could not believe he had gotten into a fight before nine o’clock in the morning.”
Dougherty has offered a different version of events, saying that Keesee incited the fight by swinging at one of Doc’s guys while he was removing the sticker. Dougherty further claimed that Keesee made threats against Doc’s family before he threw the first punch at Dougherty.
At one point, the union installed a 12-foot inflatable rat in front of the work site, according to the suit say, which quotes union representative Christopher Owens as saying that he was paid $140,000 a year “just for standing outside and guarding” the blow-up rat. “Owen repeatedly told Keesee that Keesee, too, could be making ‘easy money’ if he joined IBEW 98.”
In an interview, attorney for the Keesee, Robert Mozanter, described the incident as hooligan behavior.
“A union official who’s the head of the union would come out at 9 a.m. in the morning and come over to a person and punch him in the face because he’s a non-union person, or refuses to join a union. What does that tell you about the union? What does that tell you about the leader of the union?”
Dougherty didn’t answer a call for comment. And he wasn’t at his Pennsport rowhouse, nor at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers headquarters on Spring Garden Street, on a recent visit to both.
A state grand jury is also investigating the altercations, but hasn’t decided whether to press criminal charges. That followed District Attorney Seth Williams referring the case to the Attorney General’s Office after saying his political ties to Dougherty would present a conflict.
Federal authorities are also still digging into Doc after raids on his home, business office and City Councilman Bobby Henon’s office in August.
“Why the District Attorney’s Office didn’t press charges and lock him up is beyond me,” Mozanter said of Dougherty.