‘Philadelphia cannot simply shrug’: A call for change greets news of Henon’s guilty verdict

Supporters of IBEW leader John Dougherty crowd the lobby of the federal courthouse in Philadelphia after guilty verdicts were returned against Dougherty and City Council member Bobby Henon. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Supporters of IBEW leader John Dougherty crowd the lobby of the federal courthouse in Philadelphia after guilty verdicts were returned against Dougherty and City Council member Bobby Henon. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

​​A jury on Monday found City Councilmember Bobby Henon and electricians union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty guilty of conspiracy and other charges in the federal corruption case against them.

Dougherty, business manager at Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was convicted of eight of the 11 charges he faced and Henon 10 of 18 counts.

The verdict comes more than six years after the FBI began wiretapping phones belonging to Henon and Dougherty, and five years after the federal investigation exploded into public view.

The two men each face up to 20 years in jail for the most serious of the charges, although they can argue for shorter terms and can appeal their convictions.

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IBEW spokesman Frank Keel said Monday that Dougherty will continue to lead the union while he appeals the verdict.

“This was not the right outcome,” Keel told a crowd of reporters outside of the federal courthouse. “Justice was not served today.”

IBEW spokesman Frank Keel says John Dougherty will continue to lead the union while he appeals the verdict. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In City Council, Henon will have to give up his seat and government pension when he and Dougherty are sentenced in late February.

Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez in a statement called the past few weeks of the corruption trial “a sad time for Philadelphia City Council.” The testimony and profanity-laced wiretap recordings heard during the trial “cast serious doubt on the integrity of our legislative body,” she said.

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Now that the trial is over, Quiñones-Sánchez said, City Council must act to address issues raised by the evidence presented, including a ban on outside employment for council members.

At least six members of City Council, including Henon, hold second roles that bring in income.

“We are a full-time legislative body with a generous salary in the poorest big city in America. Certainly, our legislative duties deserve our full attention,” Quiñones-Sánchez said.

State Rep. Jared Solomon, who called for Henon to resign when the charges were announced in 2019 — breaking from Henon’s City Council peers, who did not issue a call for his departure from office — issued a statement after the verdict came Monday. “The citizens of Philadelphia received the justice they deserve,” Solomon said. “We cannot wait to rid our government and politics of corruption.”

IBEW spokesperson Frank Keel says John Dougherty will continue to lead the union while he appeals the verdict. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Reaction from other elected state and city officials was notably muted following Monday afternoon’s verdict.

City Council President Darrell Clarke spoke broadly on the charges against Councilmember Henon and did not ask for Henon’s immediate resignation.

“While it is always difficult to learn of a guilty verdict on conspiracy charges of a member of this legislative body, the jury has spoken, and we respect its verdict,” Clarke said in the statement.

Quiñones-Sánchez, meanwhile, spoke to the need to restore public confidence following Henon’s and Dougherty’s guilty verdicts.

“Philadelphia cannot simply shrug and move on to the next scandal,” she said.

Meir Rinde contributed reporting.

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